Refugee response during COVID-19
The 283,000 refugees and asylum-seekers estimated to be living in Yemen, mostly Somalis (90 per cent), are amongst the most vulnerable, especially in the context of COVID-19. Most refugees and asylumseekers live in urban neighbourhoods in Aden and Sana’a, with fewer in Mukalla in Hadramaut governorate and Kharaz camp (9,000) in Lahj governorate. The community has been disproportionately affected by the pandemic due to the loss of livelihoods, caused by the slowing down of the economy as they had unskilled jobs in the informal sector, and discrimination due to scapegoating for bringing the disease to Yemeni communities. The number of individuals meeting UNHCR’s cash assistance criteria increased exponentially since April.
UNHCR monitors COVID-19 related movement restrictions, especially at borders and between territories controlled by the de facto authorities in the north and the internationally recognised Government of Yemen in the south.
UNHCR’s refugee programme in Yemen remains relatively underfunded in comparison to its programme for displaced Yemenis. If funding is not received by September, life-saving secondary and tertiary health referrals will halt, affecting 30,000 refugees. The lack of shelter maintenance such as installing sewage lines to homes will affect hundreds of families in Kharaz refugee camp. A very successful programme that used to provide microfinance loans to 200 refugee entrepreneurs, promoting self-sufficiency and resilience will come to an end as well as support for education and vocational trainings. Furthermore, the reduction of assistance during the cold winter season for clothing, blankets and fuel will expose vulnerable refugees to cold and heightened risks of getting respiratory infections, especially for new-borns, elderly and people living with chronic diseases.