Last Updated: Friday, 24 October 2014, 15:39 GMT

Yemen: IDP returnees face tough challenges

Publisher Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN)
Publication Date 29 March 2010
Cite as Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), Yemen: IDP returnees face tough challenges, 29 March 2010, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4bb4bde8c.html [accessed 25 October 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

SANAA, 29 March 2010 (IRIN) - Hundreds of displaced families have returned to their homes in the northern governorate of Saada after more than six months of displacement after clashes between the army and Houthi-led Shia rebels.

But many of the returnees lack access to water, health care and education, while others have lost their livelihoods or come back to damaged homes, according to local officials and the returnees themselves.

"We have been suffering since we returned on 14 March. We have lost our sheep and cows? Our orange farms were also destroyed," Abdurrahman al-Farih, a returnee from al-Nadhir village, Razih District, Saada Governorate, told IRIN.

"We are thinking of going back to the northern part of Sanaa where we stayed when we were displaced because there's hardly anything to eat at home," he said.

We are frightened of cultivating our farms because of landmines and other munitions lying around, "but rent [in Sanaa] was a major concern for us and other displaced families."

Dozens of families have returned to their homes in the villages of al-Nadhir, Rijam and Ghamar in Razih District since mid-March after the authorities declared the area safe and police stations were reopened, Dhaifallah Sulaiman Shaeb, the head of Razih District local council, told IRIN.

Some homes were damaged by bombs or shelling, he said.

Over 100 buildings had been completely destroyed and more than 600 partially destroyed in Razih, one of Saada Governorate's 15 districts, Shaeb said, adding: "Fewer than 100 of the nearly 700 displaced families from the district have returned home."

Presidential directive

Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh on 20 March ordered the local authorities in Saada and Amran governorates to facilitate the return of IDPs to their homes.

"The war ended? What we need to do now is restore peace and security to war-affected areas, help displaced families return home and begin reconstructing what had been destroyed by the war," he said. "Citizens' safety and wellbeing tops the government's agenda."
 
A large-scale, voluntary and safe return to Saada Governorate will require stability and security as well as considerable reconstruction and a swift aid effort, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said in a 26 March statement.

"Both the returning IDPs and those who never left the governorate need immediate assistance with food and essential shelter materials," said the statement.

"UNHCR has prepared plans and is ready - funds permitting - to assist in the return process together with other UN agencies, NGO partners and the government."

Since the mid-February ceasefire, some 200 families from the three camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in al-Mazraq, Hajjah Governorate, have reportedly returned to Saada Governorate, according to the statement.

Obstacles

Some 7-10 percent of an estimated 270,000 IDPs have returned to their homes, especially in the southern, central and northern parts of Saada Governorate, Mohammed al-Emad, head of Saada Governorate local council, told IRIN on 27 March.

"Slow implementation of the six conditions listed by the government [in the ceasefire agreement] for Houthis to implement is one of the obstacles delaying the return of displaced persons to their homes," said al-Emad, who is also head of the Damage Survey Committee.

"Another is that some people's homes were completely destroyed? They can only return if their homes are reconstructed, which may take a long time? given that required funds need to be available."

An initial survey revealed that nearly 5,700 public and private buildings had been partially or completely destroyed in Saada Governorate, he said.

Fighting between Houthi rebels and government forces, which flared up in August 2009, came to an end after a ceasefire was signed in mid-February 2010.

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