Global Overview 2012: People internally displaced by conflict and violence - Yemen

Number of IDPsAbout 385,000
Percentage of total populationAbout 1.6%
Start of displacement situation2004
Peak number of IDPs (year)545,000 (2012)
New displacement in 2012132,000 reported
Causes of displacementx International armed conflict
✓ Internal armed conflict
✓ Deliberate policy or practice of arbitrary displacement
x Communal violence
x Criminal violence
✓ Political violence
Human development index160

As of December 2012, there were about 385,000 IDPs in Yemen. The country continued to suffer the effects of conflict between government forces and rival tribal and militant groups during the year, and the fighting led to the displacement of tens of thousands of people, principally in the south. More than 10 million people were estimated to be facing severe food insecurity and 13 million acute water shortages.

The popular uprising that began in February 2011 abated somewhat towards the end of the same year following the transfer of power to Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, who assumed the presidency under a transitional agreement brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council and backed by the UN. Intermittent clashes and urban protests continued until February 2012, however, particularly in Sana'a, and ongoing clashes and insecurity caused new displacement and hampered returns and reconstruction efforts in both the north and the south of the country.

In southern Yemen, clashes between pro-government factions and the Islamic militant group Ansar al-Sharia for control of the governorate of Abyan continued. Ansar al-Sharia had taken control of most of Abyan by mid-2011, and declared it an Islamic state. More than 100,000 people were displaced as a result of that conflict. In April 2012, government forces backed by the Abyan popular defence committees launched an offensive to retake control of the territory, which lasted until June and brought the total number of people displaced from Abyan to the neighbouring governorates to over 200,000.

In northern Yemen, successive rounds of armed conflict between government forces and the al-Houthi movement in Sa'ada governorate have been the leading cause of displacement since 2004. The latest round of fighting, from mid-2009 to February 2010, was significantly more destructive than the previous ones. The conflict spread to Al Jawf, Hajjah and Amran governorates and to areas bordering Saudi Arabia, displacing more than 340,000 people. Most of those who fled their homes remained in protracted displacement as of the end of 2012. Around 50,000 people were also internally displaced in early 2012, mainly in Hajjah governorate, as a result of intermittent conflict between al-Houthi, rival tribes and Salafist militants.

Ongoing clashes, checkpoints and landmines have prevented many civilians from fleeing or seeking assistance, and have also caused death and injury among those who have tried to do so.

The majority of IDPs live among host communities. Many have chosen not to live in camps because of the lack of livelihood opportunities available there, and cultural norms that dictate that women should not be seen by men other than their close relatives. Most IDPs live in rented and overcrowded housing or in makeshift shelters, schools and informal settlements. Many have inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, food and public services, particularly in the conflict-affected areas of Abyan.

The government has made return its preferred solution to resolving the displacement crisis. The humanitarian community has sought to provide support in an effort to ensure that returns are voluntary and carried out in safety and dignity. It has also tentatively explored other settlement options with the government for those who do not wish to return. Although the majority of IDPs in both the north and south have expressed a wish to go back to their places of origin, most have been reticent to do so given prevailing insecurity, the presence of landmines and unexploded ordnance, limited reconstruction efforts and a lack of livelihood opportunities. By December 2012, around 98,000 IDPs had returned in the south and 36,000 had reportedly returned in the north.

The humanitarian response in Yemen has been impeded by access restrictions, insecurity, limited resources and inadequate funding in recent years. In 2012, humanitarian access continued to be intermittent. In the south, it improved as the conflict receded, enabling a more extensive response. In the north, there were also modest improvements but access remained difficult.

The UN has been operating the cluster approach in Yemen since 2010, working closely with the Executive Unit on IDPs, which was established by the Yemeni government to respond to displacement. As of the end of 2012, the latest humanitarian response plan was only 57 per cent funded. Additional funding was requested for the UN plan to address the humanitarian situation in Abyan.


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