Islamic Relief Yemen reflects on the impact of a decade of conflict – and the urgent needs facing the country’s most vulnerable families.

Over 356,000 Yemenis fled their homes in the conflict that began in 2004. Clashes in Sa’ada governorate came to a halt in 2010, but the next year unrest fuelled more displacement particularly in the capital, Sana’a. Fighting in Abyan governorate forced a further 200,000 people from their homes by 2012.

Conflict had by then displaced around 2.3 per cent of the population – some 545,000 people. Although some were able to return home, thousands of other families fled violence in the northern governorates Amran, Sa’ada and Hajja in 2013 and in Abyan, Shabwah and AlBayda governorates in 2014.

“I have lost everything, my house, farm, shops and family members,” said Akeel Ahmed, a father-of-three from Haidan district, Sa’ada. “Since 2008 I have been living in Sana’a. We have been suffering from shortages in shelter, water, food, and security. We are not welcomed in the community here.”

Returning home is a dream

Many families from Sa’ada are seeking safety in the northern governorate of Hajjah. Here, three camps in Haradh town are home to almost 15,000 people. Islamic Relief manages camp I and III, on behalf of the UNHCR.

“I have been in the camp since 2009,” said father-of-seven Ali Jaber, 45. Two of his children were born in the camp. “Returning home is a five year dream, waiting to be achieved.”

Life in the camps is hard, with vulnerable people – particularly women and children –most at risk from exploitation. In Amran and Haradh, Islamic Relief has teamed-up with UNHCR and the World Food Programme to deliver projects focused on protection, shelter, and food distribution.

The host communities around the camps also need help to cope with the pressure on scarce local resources and services. Islamic Relief brings displaced and settled communities together to resolve conflict.

Restarting life from the beginning

As the government adopts a national policy that aims to prevent displacement and promote lasting solutions to the conflict, some families are able to return home. By the end of 2013, around 228,000 people – mostly from Abyan governorate – had returned. Like those still unable to go back, they face urgent needs in shelter, water and sanitation – and many require help to restart their livelihoods.

Abdulelah Abdo, 40, recently returned to Abyan.

“Eight family members and I left my house in June 2012,” he said. “We were running away from conflict in Abyan. We stayed in Aden governorate until August 2013. It was difficult to find new home and more difficult to cope with the new situation.

“Returning home was like getting a second chance of living. We were happy and sad all at once, because we had to restart our life from the very beginning”.

Families that have returned home are accessing opportunities through Islamic Relief’s livelihoods project, which offers vocational training as well as assistance in setting up small livestock enterprises.

Islamic Relief has been working in Yemen since 1998, and registered our field office more than a decade ago. We deliver a range of emergency projects focused on tackling the country’s deepening hunger crisis as well as long-term development programmes.