UNHCR braces for further displacement as Yemen conflict intensifies

On the eve of a key pledging conference to address the crisis in Yemen, the UN Refugee Agency warns up to half a million people could be uprooted by worsening conflict.

ADEN, Yemen - Since bombs and shelling drove her from her home last year, Yemeni grandmother Hadiya has camped out in an unfinished building in this port city, with her family of 15 children and grandchildren.

“Our life is broken,” she said, of their desperate existence since fleeing the Red Sea governorate of Taizz. “We just want to live in safety and with dignity. We don’t want anything else.”

That hope seems remote. As the conflict intensifies on Yemen’s western coast, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is preparing for up to half a million more people like Hadiya and her family to be displaced.

Since the beginning of the year, hostilities inTaizz have displaced almost 50,000 people. This is in addition to the three million who have been uprooted since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen in 2015, of which two million remain displaced and one million have provisionally returned home to precarious conditions.

“We just want to live in safety and with dignity. We don’t want anything else.”

UNHCR and humanitarian agencies are concerned, however, that recent military escalations in Taizz and Al Hudaydah governorates, could potentially displace up to half a million people, further exacerbating Yemen’s deep humanitarian crisis.

“Yemen has spiraled into chaos and misery,” said Ayman Gharaibeh, UNHCR’s representative in Yemen. “With less than a quarter of funding received for the humanitarian response, we are facing dire choices, having to prioritize assistance and programmes.”

The warning comes as the United Nations prepares to hold a High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen. The conference takes place April 25 in Geneva and is co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden.

UNHCR is warning that an intensification of conflict in Al Hudaydah will lead to large-scale displacement, further increasing needs and vulnerabilities in an area already host to a sizeable displaced population and suffering from critical levels of food insecurity.

If hostilities intensify in Hudaydah, UNHCR is bracing for displacement of anywhere between 100,000 to half a million people. The estimates were made by a technical working group, the Task Force on Population Movement, which UNHCR co-leads with the International Organization for Migration in Yemen.

In anticipation of the new displacement, UNHCR is pre-positioning supplies to respond to affected people. In the event of the anticipated displacement, UNHCR will help establish, with partners, multi-sector service hubs along major displacement routes.

The centres will offer respite for people fleeing the violence. UNHCR will provide mobile core relief kits and essential protection services. UNHCR will also provide emergency shelter and household assistance at the final destinations of the displaced in the form of shelter materials, vouchers, financial assistance or cash subsidies for rent, depending on needs.

All such aid is vital to displaced families like that of Hadiya, who were not able to flee with any belongings, and see no prospect of returning home while fighting rages.

“I cannot go back to Taizz now after this,” she says.