Arhab’s displaced return home
Published on 1 March 2012 in Report
Ali Saeed (author)
Around 1,144 families in Arhab have benifited from the food aid rations provided by the UN.
Nageeb Al-Hanik and his 11- family members have finally returned home after living in a cave for seven months.
Al-Hanik’s family fled when fighting broke out between Arhab tribesmen and the Republican Guards, led by Ahmed Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former president’s son, in late May 2011.
Al-Hanik’s is one of hundreds of families who have begun filtering home after war forced them to the capital Sana’a and Amran governorate – while some others were forced to live in caves until fighting gradually wound down after ex-president Saleh signed a power transfer deal on Nov. 23, 2011.
“After Saleh signed the Gulf Cooperative Council initiative, people started coming back home as the scale of the shelling scale was noticeably reduced,” said Al-Hanik.
In January, local and international aid organizations began providing food and other assistance to returnees, according to Al-Hanik.
Vision Hope International, a foreign NGO contracted with the United Nations is one of those distributing food to needy residents.
“Close to the army camps in the east of the district several houses have been destroyed. Several thousand families have been displaced into Amran governorate, into Sana’a city and within Arhab district,” Matthias Leibbrand, General Director of Vision Hope International, explained.
Because so many buildings were destroyed during the months-long conflict, many families are unable to return simply because they have nowhere to live, according to Al-Hanik.
“The government and aid organizations should help returnees to rebuild destroyed buildings to enable them return home,” he added.
Seven families still live in caves in Arhab as their houses were completely destroyed.
Around 500 homes were damaged between May 2011 and Feb 2012, Ahmed Al-Rehabi, a lawyer at HOOD organization told the Yemen Times. Al-Rehabi leads human and material loss evaluations at HOOD, and has been assessing Arhab’s damage.
Damage varies from one house to another; some homes have been completely destroyed, while others have partially collapsed after being hit by shells, he said.
So far, a number of organizations including the local Islah Charitable Organization, Soul, ADRA, ICRC and Vision Hope International have distributing food items, mattresses, and blankets.
Around 1,144 families in Arhab benefited from the food aid rations, including flour, rice, oil, sugar and beans, distributed by Vision Hope International, said the organization. Food packages will be distributed to approximately 1,685 more families in the same areas in March, the organization added.
Aid distribution has been progressing well, with no major obstacles for assistance teams, according to Leibbrand.
"In our case we arranged the distribution through Jamaiyya Arhab [a local NGO], in safe places outside conflict areas," Leibbrand said.
He added that as well as damaging local homes, "wells were destroyed and therefore also irrigation of the fields stopped in many areas".
Farmers in Arhab rely on rainwater and well water pumped up by diesel generators to irrigate crops.
Agriculture is the main source of income for around 2,000 people in the area where grapes, oranges, corn and qat are grown. Therefore, the livelihoods of thousands of Arhab families have also been.
Shelling damaged some 24 water wells, while a number of diesel generators were also damaged or stolen, according to Al-Rehabi.
While fighting has calmed in much of Arhab, some areas are still affected, according to Vision Hope International, particularly in south-eastern Arhab, where the area’s military camps are located.
A Republican Guard source said that the soldiers are unable to leave the camps while armed. At the same time, no new military enforcements can enter the camps as armed opposition tribesmen have set up checkpoints.