ADEN, – The government and humanitarian agencies are studying different options for relocating thousands of internally displaced persons (IDPs) sheltering in around 70 schools in the southern governorates of Aden and Lahj, ahead of the new academic year scheduled to begin on 17 September.
Up to17 public places have been identified in Aden and are currently being assessed by the government and humanitarian organizations, Raul Rosende, head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Yemen, told IRIN on 8 September.
“Tents could be provided depending on the conditions at these sites as some have buildings with limited capacity or no buildings at all,” he said.
It is estimated that up to 100,000 people have been displaced by ongoing fighting between government troops and Islamic militants in the southern governorate of Abyan since May. Most fled fighting in the regional capital Zinjibar.
A recent report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said some 3,800 IDP families (26,600 individuals) are sheltering in schools while the rest are living with host families or in rented flats. Some IDPs are afraid that leaving school accommodation may adversely affect their access to assistance.
Ahmad al-Kuhlani, head of the government-run IDP Office, believes the sites identified so far may not be able to accommodate all the IDPs currently sheltering in schools, and he was skeptical about setting up an official camp: A 1,000 tent camp would cost US$1,000,000, he said. “Establishing a camp is the last option due to the lack of funds.”
Also, according to UNHCR, many Yemenis could not live in a camp for cultural reasons: In this conservative society, women are not allowed to be seen by men other than their close relatives.
“It is a big shame if you allow your wife, sister or daughter to meet male strangers [from outside their own families]. Living alone in a desert is more tolerable than mixing together with other families,” said Radhi Mohammed, 30, sheltering with his eight-member family in a two-room apartment in Aden for YR22,000 (US$90) a month. “We can hardly afford the rent, but what else can one do… It is impossible for one to break this tradition so easily in a fortnight.”
According to al-Kuhlani, many families currently sheltering in schools refuse to live with other families in the same classroom. “Each family wants its own classroom… How could they live in official camps where families often lack privacy?” he wondered.
“If the locations being identified are not enough to accommodate all the IDP families currently in schools, giving financial assistance to the families to rent their own apartments could be a possibility,” said OCHA’s Resonde.
“Under this option, families without income sources may need a monthly grant of YR10,000 [US$45], which is 50 percent of the average rent of a low-quality apartment,” al-Kuhlani said.