From Instability to Security: Providing Safer Shelters for Displaced Families in Ma’rib

Published Date: 
Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Ma’rib – “When the rain fell, the rooms in our mud shelter used to melt like chocolate,” recalls Sa’eed, an elderly displaced grandfather living in Ma’rib governorate.

When the 63-year-old man arrived to Husoon Al Hadi displacement site more than four years ago, he built two rooms from mud to provide shelter for his multi-generational family which consisted of 22 people, including his wife, adult children, their spouses and 12 grandchildren.

They were forced to flee their warm home when the conflict broke out in 2015. They had thought their displacement would be temporary. But it was only the start of a long and exhausting journey that took them to four different displacement sites before finding more permanent safety in Husoon Al Hadi.

“It was hard for me to leave Sa’dah. I had a big house with eight rooms full of furniture. I remember that we had 12 beds. I also had farmland with a well, two electrical generators and two water pumps. We used to plant vegetables and fodder in our farm and life was good,” said Sa’eed, explaining the stable life he and his family had before they were displaced.

“The first time we fled was near the border with Saudi Arabia where we stayed for a few days. Then we went to Al Hodeidah governorate for one year, then to Sana’a for six months, until we moved once again and settled in Ma’rib,” he added, recalling how the search for assistance and safety kept them constantly on the move.

IOM staff undertake a shelter assessment in Alrumaylah Alqaoz displacement site. Picture: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021

When they initially fled, they thought they would return home soon so they took their livestock with them. As their situation worsened, they had no choice but to sell them one by one. The income was at least enough to provide a humble shelter and food for his family.

Nearly six months after their first displacement, Sa’eed lost one of his daughters, Fatima, when fighting intensified in Al Hodeidah. The 20-year-old mother of two died of injuries caused by a mortar shell that fell near their house.

After this tragedy, the family fled to Ma’rib governorate. There, Sa’eed also lost his son, Ali, a 35-year-old father of two, in the conflict about three years ago.

Carrying their wounds and burdens, Sae’ed and his family made it to Husoon Aal Hadi site in Ma’rib and moved into the two-room mud shelter that they built, which barely provided safety or privacy for the family.

”The women and children slept in the rooms at night while the men slept outside. It was uncomfortable for us, especially for children who slept on top of each other. Things got even worse during the rainy season as we all crammed into the rooms. We feared that the leaking celling would collapse overhead at any moment,” he said.

A displaced mother receives the second payment of cash assistance to upgrade her shelter in Husoon Al Hadi site in Ma’rib.  Picture: Picture: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021

To help vulnerable displaced families like Sa’eed’s upgrade their shelters, the International Organization for Migration (IOM), in collaboration with EU Humanitarian Aid, provided over 100 families in Husoon Al Hadi site with cash assistance. The families used the cash to purchase and build better shelters at the start of this year.

“We received the payment in three installments. When I got the first one, I ran to the local market to buy the materials to rehabilitate the two rooms and construct three more. We were able to choose the materials and type of shelter we prefer,” explained Sa’eed

A woman receives cash she can use to purchase and install materials to upgrade her shelter in Ma’rib. Picture: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021

“This cash-based activity allowed displaced households to purchase and install materials from local markets when upgrading their shelters. It fulfills a longer-term objective of building the community’s skills in sustainable shelter building and increasing their independence,” said Ibrahim Al Haduri from IOM’s shelter team in Ma’rib.

A father plays with his child in front of their newly upgraded shelter in Husoon Al Hadi camp in Ma’rib. Picture: Elham Al-Oqabi IOM/2021

After receiving the full payment, Sa’eed improved his shelter even more by installing isolation layers to the roof and floor to protect his family during hot weather and heavy rains. He also supplied the shelters with doors and electricity, providing the children with more security at night.

“Each family has their own shelters and space, and with the door closed, the children feel more comfortable and can sleep near their mothers, and they are better protected against the rain, sun, wind and insects,” he concludes.

This story was written by Elham Al-Oqabi and Mennatallah Homaid on IOM Yemen’s Media and Communications Team