By Victoria Ifould, International Giving Executive, ShelterBox
ShelterBox and Rotary members have a mutual concern about the rising levels of global displacement and a shared passion to support those whose lives are torn apart by disaster and conflict. When war and conflict destroy homes and displace people, shelter is one of the essential building blocks for recovery. As well as responding to disasters, ShelterBox provides emergency shelter and other lifesaving items to people who have lost everything to conflict.
In partnership, we have provided shelter support to communities displaced by conflict in Nigeria, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Syria, Cameroon, Sudan, Ethiopia, and Mozambique.
Conflict situations are complex and challenging operating environments. Before we decide whether to implement a project to support people displaced by conflict, we need to evaluate the risk and whether we would be able to respond effectively.
Over the years, we have been monitoring the Yemen conflict very closely. Previously, we have been unable to respond in the country due to access constraints, the active conflict, and the security situation. Sea, land, and air blockades made it almost impossible to send aid for many years. As an active war zone, humanitarian work is extremely dangerous. It requires a huge amount of resources and robust local partnerships to ensure that everyone involved is kept safe, and that aid can be delivered to the people who need it most without those families being exposed to further harm as a result of us being there.
Due to the easing of some restrictions and through developing a strong partnership with the Benevolence Coalition for Humanitarian Relief (BCHR), a local organization, we are now able to implement a response.
The Yemen Civil War
The conflict in Yemen is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
In 2014, tensions between the rebel Houthi movement and government forces escalated into civil war. A conflict that was meant to last weeks has continued for over seven years. 21 million people—that’s two-thirds of the country’s entire population—need humanitarian support. Years of fighting have displaced more than four million people, most of whom have been moving from place to place for years.
The crisis in Yemen is extremely complex. Intense deprivation, a lack of services and the failing economy creates new and spiraling crises every year. We are supporting people in the Ma’rib region in Northern Yemen. Since 2021, conflict has flared in the region and caused rapid displacement of thousands of people fleeing to already overcrowded displacement camps. The camps have a lack of basic services such as water, food, and healthcare.
Aisha and Ali
Aisha and her family had to flee their home due to the violence of the civil war. Since then, Aisha has moved from place to place searching for a safe and secure place to bring up her children and earn a living. They are now staying in Ma’rib, where she is dependent on her relatives’ support.
“We depend on our relatives because we left everything we owned in our house in Shabwa. We built it over three years and lost it in two days – only to be displaced with just the clothes that were on us.”
Most displaced people in Ma’rib live in “nests,” makeshift shelters made of any materials people can find, including cloth, plastic, and vegetation. They offer no protection from the blazing heat of summer and provide no warmth in the freezing winter temperatures.
Ali’s home was destroyed in a military attack. He now lives in Ma’rib, where he struggles to support his family of eight. “The conditions are very difficult, there is no work, and little aid is provided to us… we live in a nest of straw, scrap and some drums.”
Aisha and Ali’s stories echo that of millions of people who have been left to survive in displacement camps across Northern Yemen.
ShelterBox’s response will help protect families, help them to stay healthy, and support them to build resilience and improve their living conditions. We will be distributing tarpaulins, UN family tents, solar lights, water filters, water carriers, kitchen sets, thermal blankets, sleeping mats, mosquito nets, wash basins, soap, and face masks.
Water filters will help families to avoid water borne diseases, blankets will help children to stay warm, and shelter will help families to continue their family routines, be protected from the elements, and give a sense of dignity and privacy whilst also protecting them from COVID-19.
Partnerships are at the heart of our work
In complex humanitarian situations like Yemen, the local knowledge and connections of local partners is more important than ever. BHCR will work directly with the local authorities and communities to ensure we are providing aid to the families who are most in need. ShelterBox brings expertise in shelter, logistics, training, and monitoring, evaluation, accountability, and learning and can strengthen the capacity of other organisations.
As Rotary’s partner in disaster relief, ShelterBox is able to extend Rotary’s reach and support people in Yemen who are experiencing one of the world’s most devastating humanitarian crisis.