31 December 2013 |

Yemen: Internal displacement in brief

As of December 2013

 

As of December 2013, there were around 307,000 IDPs in Yemen, mainly in the north of the country. Around 500,000 people have been displaced in recent years as a result of three distinct crises.

Firstly, six successive rounds of armed conflict between the government and the al-Houthi movement in Sa’ada governorate have displaced more than 356,000 people since 2004. A February 2010 ceasefire still holds, but localised fighting in surrounding governorates caused new displacement in 2011 and 2012.

Secondly, violence linked to political unrest caused internal displacement in 2011, particularly in and around Sana’a. Most of those affected managed to return, but many still need help in achieving a durable solution.

Thirdly, fighting between pro-government factions and the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia for control of Abyan governorate in southern Yemen displaced more than 200,000 people between May 2011 and June 2012. After the end of the conflict, security improved and IDPs started to return. Ansar al-Sharia remains an active threat, however, and sporadic violence continued to cause displacement in 2013. Renewed fighting in the northern governorates of Amran, Sa’ada and Hajja also displaced thousands of families.

Yemen remained in the grip of a major humanitarian crisis during 2013. More than 10 million people faced severe food insecurity, and around 12 million lacked access to clean drinking water or sanitation facilities. Despite its extremely dry climate, Yemen is also prone to flash floods and landslides when rains sweep across the southwestern tip of the Arabian Peninsula. Natural hazards increase protection risks for IDPs displaced by other causes, and make them vulnerable to further displacement. An estimated 52 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line and gender is a key determinant of vulnerability.

The vast majority of IDPs live in host communities. Some are living in protracted displacement and are reluctant to return in the absence of a political solution to the conflict, de-mining and the reconstruction of damaged property and infrastructure. By the end of 2013, around 228,000 formerly IDPs had returned to their homes, most of them in Abyan governorate. The sustainability of returns needs to be supported, however, by reconstruction, ensuring access to basic services, rebuilding livelihoods and re-establishing governance and the rule of law.

Both IDPs and returnees highlighted shelter, water and sanitation and livelihood support as their most urgent needs. Host communities also need help in coping with the accumulated pressure on scarce resources and services, and to avoid conflict with new residents. Women, girls and boys, including those displaced, continued to be exposed to exploitation and grave violations of their rights. Widespread insecurity continues to limit humanitarian access and accurate data collection. Kidnappings, including of humanitarian workers, continue to be a serious concern.

The opening of a national dialogue conference in March 2013 was a major milestone for Yemen’s transition out of political crisis, but serious challenges remain. The political process has moved forward, but unless the security and humanitarian situations are addressed, any progress may be undermined.

The government adopted a national policy on internal displacement in June 2013. It was the result of an extensive consultative process, including IDPs. It aims to prevent arbitrary displacement, support both IDPs and host communities and create the conditions for durable solutions. It is vital that the policy be implemented, because the achievement of durable solutions is critically important not only for IDPs but also for improving stability in the country as a whole.

The international humanitarian community has coordinated assistance through the cluster system since 2010, working closely with the government’s executive unit on IDPs, which was established to respond to displacement. The humanitarian response continued to be impeded in 2013 by access restrictions, insecurity and a lack of funding.