Yemen is facing one of the worst humanitarian crisis today and can be termed as Syria without camera. Vulnerabilities of displaced and host population due to conflict and war has reached to a new level where humanitarian response alone may not suffice to overcome the challenges displaced communities are facing. Close 2.9 million (14th Task Force Population Report, May 2017) displaced population needs both life saving and sustained basic services (food, water, shelter, health facilities and income). Though there are pattern of return both in southern (Aden) and northern governorates ( Sa’ada). This is due to mainly push factor than pull factors or durable solution. Displaced households in Amran governorate find extremely difficult to afford living in cities or camps. Social tension between IDPs and host escalated and displaced households thus took a risk to return to their original location (limited access by humanitarian agencies). Similar in Aden in 2016, close to a million displaced population returned but then struck with high incidences of cholera due to damaged infrastructure and utilities. The front lines of conflict between warring parties have not changed and possibility to return for displaced population to their original location remains a distant dream. This also means physical and natural resources will continue to be stretched to have fair and equitable access of basic services for IDPs and host.
Conflict between host and IDPs have already surfaced in many governorates over access to resources (water, education, humanitarian aid). Majority of the physical and natural resources are owned by the host. Though humanitarian response can largely benefit IDPs and few host but in the longer period may disrupt social cohesion between them due to competing over resources (primarily humanitarian aid). Historically, the social cohesion in Yemen was always there in many tribal culture and societies in the rural areas and therefore many host communities were able to absorb the shock and stress of displacement across the country except in the few pockets. The relationship between displaced and host has largely been cordial though the socio-economic status of both are more or less same now after two years of conflicts. Until peace returns Yemen, displaced and host communities will continue to be vulnerable and soon may reach a tipping point, where social tensions can be inevitable unless drivers of conflict and social tensions are addressed along with humanitarian response.
Food insecurity and disease outbreak have hit the rock bottom where life saving interventions have barely managed to prevent the deterioration of malnutrition status and casualties from treatable water borne diseases. Severe acute malnutrition and cholera incidences also have struck a chord and increased vulnerabilities manifold across the country (10 out of 22 governorates are classified under IPC 4 and 278 districts out of 333 is under cholera incidences attack) and has challenged humanitarian response framework. Prolonged conflict and crisis has also forced vulnerable households specially women (52% of overall Yemen population) to resort to negative coping mechanism such as early age marriage and sale of girl child due to lack of protection and safety net support at the household level. Women’s mobility has increased due to men including participation of child solider’s in the front line. Homestead business, agribusiness and skilled or unskilled labor market still need to adjust and adapt to the current crisis and thus lack opportunities for women to be engaged for income and livehihood. Vulnerable households including women headed need emergency employment and diversified income opportunities to reduce the negative coping mechanism.
Community based institutions (formal and informal) prime drivers of conflict and peace resolution have also faced negative impact of the crisis and become defunct or idle. Administrative and elected bodies at the district and governorate levels, responsible for the delivery of basic services, are not a major stakeholders in current humanitarian response due to political affiliation perception and lack of capacity to deliver impartial response. This has also created a trust deficit between communities and local administration. Building peace process would need strong community based institutions, active local administration and resilient communities.Despite of the dire needs among people and crumbled system, affected Yemeni people continue to absorb shocks and stresses for the last 24 months since the beginning of the crisis in March 2015.
Humanitarian interventions are the opportunities for resilience to continue or sustain services where people and system are central part of it. Blend of humanitarian response and resilience building helps household (vulnerable) to adapt to external shocks and stress and build back for future.
Views expressed in the above blog are personal