Electricity Upgrades Bring Light and Power to Ma’rib’s Largest Displacement Site

Published Date: 
Thursday, July 15, 2021

Ma’rib - From the moment they flee, leaving behind their belongings, memories and sometimes families, people displaced by conflict must begin to search for a new home – one that is safe, secure and equipped with the basics. In Ma’rib, a Yemeni governorate surrounded by desert with year-round high temperatures, electricity to power refrigerators, fans and other items is one of the most essential needs. 

“Here in Ma’rib, electricity is just as important for our lives as water and food,” said Rahiq, a displaced woman who is now sheltering in Yemen’s largest displacement site, Aljufainah. 

Over the years, Aljufainah Camp has become overcrowded with more than 54,000 inhabitants. This put extensive pressure on basic services, including electricity. The old electrical network in the camp could no longer meet the increasing demand.  

The torn out electrical lines, and poor connectivity have become one of the most main causes of fire in camps like these. The electricity shortage often strikes quarrels between the community over electrical transformers, and many times, overloads the transformer unit causing short circuits and resulting in a total shut down. 

“Electricity is essential to my business, without it, all food items in the shop will get ruined,” explained Zuhair, a displaced person who owns a small grocery shop in Aljufainah. 

Zuhair sells food items at his grocery shop in Aljufainah camp in Ma’rib. Photo: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021.  

Around four years ago, the 23-year-old fled from his village in Haraz toward Maktab Alziraah in Ma’rib, then he decided to move to Aljufainah a year ago to search for better opportunities.  

He used to live with his older brother, Ramzi, and his family because he could not afford to live alone. And like many young men, Zuhair wanted to start a family and a business of his own, but the conflict and displacement made this nearly impossible. 

Luckily, six months ago, a shop was on sale, and Zuhair thought that this could be his chance to pursue his dream by opening a small grocery shop.But putting his all into starting a small business in a displacement site had its risks.   

“We used to connect cable lines from one house to another randomly. We also used to have electricity only for two days a week. The electricity was weak and could not operate all devices at once,” said Zuhair, as he expressed his concern about the safety of his products that might be spoiled by power outages. 

Electricity cables are being prepared to be connected to the transformers. Photo: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021. 

To meet this urgent need for electrical system in overcrowded displacement sites in Ma’rib, The International Organization for Migration (IOM) collaborated with the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief), European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (EU ECHO), USAID's Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and Swedish International Development Cooperation (SIDA) to upgrade the electrical network in Aljufainah Camp for a safer and more constant power supply.

“Aljufainah’s electrical network upgrade project aims to cover the electrical needs of the total 9,000 displaced families in the camp with 4.5 Mega Volt Ampere (MVA) power,” explained Mohammed Hulaif, an IOM Project Assistant in Ma’rib.  

 IOM engineer receives feedback from beneficiaries in Aljufainah camp in Ma’rib. Photo: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021. 

Around a year ago, electricity upgrades started in Aljufainah Camp to provide residents with proper electricity source. IOM installed 15 transformers and 554 wooden poles in the camp to carry high and low voltage overhead lines that power the camp.  

The ongoing electricity upgrades have given displaced families the hope of having some sense of a normal life, not only for Zuhair but for thousands of displaced men, women and children for whom power means safety and stability. 

Several shops benefited from the electricity network upgrades in Aljufainah camp in Ma'rib. Picture: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021.

“The electricity upgrades were completed a month ago, and now we have a new electrical line. It is relieving that electricity is on for the entire week,” said Zuhair. 

“I won’t worry anymore about spoiled food, and more clients will come. I myself start to stay more in the shop because I can turn on my air conditioner safely now,” he added. 

The IOM-rehabilitated electricity project supports Zahair’s business to thrive. Photo: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021. 

Like his neighbour Zuhair, 37-year-old mother Azal Saeed was happy when the electricity upgrades took place.  

Azal was displaced with her three children, two sons and one daughter, from Amran governorate to Aljufainah camp 18 months ago.  

“The situation at Aljufainah was difficult in the beginning because even on the few days when there was electricity, the power connectivity was too weak to run a laundry machine or an air conditioner,” explained Azal about some of the troubles she faced before. 

“It is hard for me to do the housework without electricity,” reflected Azal. 

Azal suffers from slipped disc, and her condition worsens without electricity as she has no one to help her with her daily tasks apart from her nine-year-old daughter, Razan. 

Electrical works are being upgraded in Aljufainah Camp. Photo: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021. 

“Our washing machine, which now can run thanks to the new electrical power, takes a lot of work off my shoulders and saves me a lot of pain,” added Azal. 

For displaced women, electricity does not only support them in doing every day home chores, but it also provides them with means of comfort and safety, like easing the extreme weather conditions and providing light in their shelters where they spend most of their days. 

Through support from KSrelief, EU ECHO, BHA and SIDA, IOM was able to support Aljufainah Camp with many sustainable projects, which will improve the overall living conditions of displaced people in the area. These projects also include improving access to the main road leading to Aljufainah and construction of a primary school near Aljufainah Camp, reaching nearly 9,800 people.

Written by Elham A-Oqabi and Mennatallah Humaid IOM’s Yemen Communication Assistants.