IOM Yemen: Ma’rib Response (11-27 April 2021)


Hostilities have persisted on a near daily basis in Ma’rib since a surge in clashes this February. The impact of the fighting on humanitarian needs has been most evident in the dire situation in Sirwah district. Here, IOM teams have recorded more than 2,560 households (HHs) becoming displaced from or within the district. A majority of these people were living in eight internally displaced person (IDP) hosting sites and have mostly moved to Al Sowayda and Alrawda sites still within Sirwah, with smaller numbers moving into nearby Ma’rib city and Ma’rib Al Wadi districts. The latter two districts have also received new arrivals from other areas in Ma’rib which are also being affected by fighting, such as Raghwan and Madghal districts. In total, some 2,871 IDP HHs (20,097 people) are estimated to have been displaced since February by fighting affecting different parts of the governorate; the number is likely much higher, with registration activities ongoing.

The sustained rate of displacement is concerning, and trends point to a worsening humanitarian and protection situation. Already, it is estimated that Ma’rib governorate hosts 1 million IDPs, and IOM teams working under the Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM) recorded over 20,000 new displacements (HHs) to or within the governorate in 2020 alone. A majority of these displacements were repeated, with IDPs having to move from one displacement site to another to flee hostilities. During the initial escalation of the conflict in Ma’rib from January to April 2020, more than 8,000 HHs were estimated to have been displaced. As of 25 April 2021, IOM estimates that 21,499 HHs (150,493 people) have been displaced in total since that time, across Ma’rib city, Ma’rib Al Wadi, Sirwah and Harib districts.

Today, displacement sites are being emptied as fighting gets closer to them. From February to April, IDPs moved from nine displacement sites in Sirwah (out of the 14 that were open at the start of the year). Incidents of armed violence are also impacting people at an unprecedented rate: in the first quarter of the year, the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP) has recorded 79 incidents of armed violence that have directly impacted civilians in Ma’rib governorate, resulting in 74 civilian casualties, including 18 fatalities (40 casualties were reported in March alone).

While needs are high and going unmet, as a result of ongoing conflict-related displacement, extreme weather is also affecting Ma’rib. Heavy rains and winds, which started close to the end of April and are expected intermittently throughout Yemen’s raining season, will further deteriorate the dire living conditions of people who had been displaced multiple times and are staying in makeshift shelters.

IDPs are bearing the brunt of the increasing hostilities in Ma’rib. Many have been displaced for years, facing challenging circumstances across the governorate. Today, the combination of weather and conflict related shocks only worsens their situation. The first quarter of the year has seen a marked increase in the number of IDP sites being impacted by armed violence in Ma’rib, affecting women and children at an unprecedented rate. In April, IDPs were relocated from four IDP sites in Sirwah (Al Mil, Al Khai, Edat Alrra and Al Tawasol) and resettled in Al Sowayda IDP site also in Sirwah. Similar to Al Rawda IDP hosting site, where thousands of IDPs relocated to in February and March, Al Sowayda’s population nearly doubled in size as a result, and without enough shelter, water and sanitation and health services, community resources are stretched to capacity. Humanitarian partners have since rallied to support; IOM has scaled up WASH assistance, and a site management and coordination partner is covering site management. On 27 April, heavy rains caused severe flooding in Al Sowayda IDP hosting site. From a rapid needs assessment, at least 512 tents are estimated to have been damaged, while non-food (NFIs) and food items were lost to rainwater and 15 cesspits were flooded. With a quarter of the site population affected by the shelter damages, least 32 children reportedly fell ill from the weather and discussions with communities reveal a sense of despair. IOM is coordinating with S-NFI partners to provide emergency shelters and non-food items from its contingency stock, should there be any gaps. The Organization is transporting an additional 10,000 pieces of plastic sheets to Ma’rib to expand contingency capacity to respond to further shocks.

Although a majority of people displaced by the recent escalation have moved mostly within Sirwah, smaller numbers are moving also to Ma’rib city and Ma’rib Al Wadi. Here, and in other districts like Harib and Al Jubah, people are also arriving from Raghwan, Rahabah and Madghal districts. In fact, since February 2021, 31 new IDP sites have opened: four in Al Jubah, three in Raghwan, 20 in Al Wadi and four in Ma’rib city. On 23 April, IDPs relocated from another site in Sirwah, Al Dushoush IDP hosting site, due to proximity in fighting. A majority – around 200 HHs – moved to Ma’rib Al Wadi and they have settled in a new makeshift site where there are no services available . Some IDPs currently displaced in Sirwah have also expressed intentions to move closer to Ma’rib city; in the last week of April, some 15HHs were reported to have left Al Sowayda IDP hosting site. IOM has been supporting new arrivals in Ma’rib city and Ma’rib Al Wadi, providing critical shelter, NFI, health and WASH support. For the thousands living there in protracted displacement, the Organization is also expanding shelter support, launching activities that target first 3,000 households who live in damaged shelters with shelter rehabilitation and transitional shelter support. With the upcoming rainy season, IOM and partners anticipate widespread shelter damage and flooding, affecting over 90 per cent of displaced persons’ shelters.

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