Community Services and Assistance to Refugees and Asylum-Seekers in Yemen
Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world and consistently ranks at the bottom of the United Nations Development Index. Still, for those fleeing war, persecution, and famine in the Horn of Africa, it is both a transit country and destination. Despite the political strife and deteriorating economic conditions, the number of Horn of Africa immigrants setting out for Yemen continues to increase. In February 2013 alone, 10,145 migrants arrived in Yemen according to UNHCR. As of May 2013, there are an estimated 35,533 refugees and asylum seekers self-settled in Sana’a, but there is no accurate data to support this figure and the real number is deemed to be much higher.
IRD Yemen began its partnership with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in 2010 with a project aimed at strengthening the self-management capacity of the Somali refugee community, Yemen’s largest refugee community. In 2011, the project expanded to include all refugee communities who flee mainly from Ethiopia, Iraq, and Eritrea. Through targeted trainings for refugee committees and sub-committees, IRD’s success in building the capacity of the various refugee committees was demonstrated most clearly during the civil unrest, as IRD-supported community leaders, outreach workers, and volunteers worked day and night to organize the displaced communities and address the needs of the most vulnerable. Having demonstrated its emergency response capacity and humanitarian drive, IRD is now responsible for managing UNHCR’s assistance program to vulnerable urban refugees.
IRD’s work on the ground with refugee communities has revealed a general lack of awareness concerning rights and responsibilities as refugees in Yemen. In response, IRD conducted an outreach exercise targeting every refugee household in Sana’a with the objective of raising awareness on rights and responsibilities, and also available services that address health, protection, food security, and other issues faced by urban refugees. Awareness raising efforts not only target refugees but also host communities. In an unprecedented media initiative, IRD produced a ten-part Arabic language radio series that reached 100,000 people including a lively drama that follows a Somali family’s displacement from Somalia to Sana’a as well as Sheikhs’ opinions on the place of refugees in Islam. Furthermore, IRD provided material and training support to refugee-run community based daycare centers as well as support to non-formal educational activities and other community initiatives conducted from the community centers.
As refugees face serious challenges to their social and economic survival, the exceptionally vulnerable groups including the elderly, psychiatric cases, disabled, people with chronic illness and those living with HIV AIDS are the hardest hit. IRD provides a monthly subsistence allowance to approximately 740 of the most vulnerable refugees defined in pre-determined UNHCR selection criteria, which empower them to pay rent and afford basic needs.
The Community Based Support Program (CBSP) II is funded by the UNHCR and implemented by IRD. The project is scheduled to run from January through December 2013.