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At a glance: Yemen

Third camp opens to accommodate displaced communities in northern Yemen

© Sethna/UNICEF Yemen/January 2010
In al-Mazrak, north-western Yemen, displaced families get settled in their tents at a newly opened camp supported by UNICEF and its partners.

By Zahra Sethna

HARADH, Yemen, 26 January 2010 – Hundreds of displaced people have begun moving into a new displacement camp in al-Mazrak, a community in north-western Yemen that has received tens of thousands of people in the past few months.

The sudden influx began in August 2009, when fighting between Yemeni Government forces and rebel fighters forced families to flee their homes and seek shelter in this remote desert area. The conflict began in 2004. Since then, some 200,000 people have been displaced.

Two displacement camps are already operational, housing approximately 23,000 people. Services are also being provided to thousands more scattered outside the camps. The latest camp opened in the wake of clashes between armed tribal militiamen and Yemeni soldiers at a checkpoint a few kilometres from the displaced communities.

Families are being relocated to this third camp from a reception area, where they had been staying temporarily, as well as from scattered settlements. The new camp will have a capacity for 1,200 families, comprising more than 9,000 people.

Essential items provided

Among the first residents was Hafedha, a 20-year-old mother of five. She and her family spent two months living in the reception area. Like all new arrivals, they were first screened by medical professionals. They were then registered, assigned a tent and given ration cards. Essential items, such as mattresses, cooking pots, jerry cans and hygiene materials were also provided.

Assistants, trained and supported by UNICEF, were on hand to help families settle into the camp.

© Sethna/UNICEF Yemen/January 2010
Hafedha and three of her five children (from left), Rabab, Saif and Ahed. They recently moved into the new UNICEF-supported camp in al-Mazrak, north-western Yemen, which will be able to accommodate 1,200 families.

Water points have been set up within the camp to provide easy access to safe drinking water. The water is currently being trucked in, but plans for a piped network are in the works.

Safe spaces for families

For many families, living in the camp has provided access to facilities and services that did not exist in their home villages.

For example, Hafedha said, this was the first time her family had a chance to use a latrine. In the coming weeks, her children will be able to attend school and participate in recreational activities organized and supported by UNICEF.

UNICEF is concerned, as well, about the mental-health of the displaced, many of whom have suffered traumatic experiences. A team of trained psycho-social support volunteers is screening the population, offering support and counselling to anyone who may need it. Safe spaces for children to play and express themselves are also available.




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