Yemen: Marginalised community gets flood relief aid

News and Press Release
Originally published
SANAA, 24 May 2009 (IRIN) - Among the victims of the October 2008 floods in southeastern Yemen who have received aid from the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) are a marginalised community known as Akhdam ("servants").

About 100 Akhdam families (700 individuals) were among the most vulnerable people affected by the floods, according to Andrew Knight, UNHCR Yemen's external relations officer. They have received durable shelters from UNHCR.

The provision of such shelters for flood-victims in Hadhramaut and al-Mahrah governorates, southeastern Yemen, began about seven months after the floods, which left 80 dead and 25,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), mostly in Hadhramaut Governorate, according to the government and a UN rapid assessment mission.

"The Akhdam were living in houses made of mud, sticks, stones, cardboard and plastic. But they were destroyed by the floods," Knight told IRIN.

He said the 100 two-room shelters had been built away from the flood path. They had also been equipped with appropriate sanitation facilities. The project was funded by the Japanese government at a cost of US$300,224 and implemented by a local NGO known as al-Dumir.

"The tragedy of the floods provided UNHCR with an opportunity to help and assist the people of Yemen in their hour of need which, in light of all the support that Yemenis have given to refugees over the years, is really the least the UNHCR can do," Knight said.

Knight said a few of the 25,000 IDPs were living in tents provided by UNHCR, but most were living either with their relatives or in accommodation rented by local NGOs.

UNHCR had also distributed relief items including mattresses, blankets, jerry cans, soap, tents, mosquito nets, sanitary napkins, plastic sheeting and kitchen sets.

Funded by the Canadian government and implemented by Oxfam (UK), UNHCR has also begun a livestock project for flood victims in Hadhramaut, targeting 400 women heads of household in the most affected areas. Families were provided with cash grants to help them buy goats, according to Knight.

New housing units

Meanwhile, government relief efforts are also under way: On 18 May some flood victims in Tarim District received government compensation payments.

Abdul-Qader Baharoon, executive director of the government's reconstruction fund, told IRIN around 1,800 new houses would be constructed in Hadhramaut and al-Mahrah. Of these, 1,000 would be built by the United Arab Emirates, he said, adding that a further 5,270 houses would be repaired.

According to an initial assessment by the World Bank, the floods in Hadhramaut and al-Mahrah caused US$1billion worth of damage.