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Yemen: Clean water and safe sanitation for displaced people in the world’s largest crisis

 

International Organisation of Migration (

Sana’a – No matter where you are, clean water and safe sanitation are key to a healthy life. In Yemen, it has been six years into the conflict and around half of the population need some form of water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support. Many are exposed to dangerous diseases like cholera and COVID-19—both of which have had a devastating impact on the country’s population.

There are multiple risk factors that can impact vulnerable communities, as is the case for 4 million internally displaced Yemenis. In locations hosting high volumes of displaced people, the needs become even more magnified while resources are overstretched. This is particularly evident in Ma’rib, a relative haven for Yemen’s largest displaced population, despite nearby continuous clashes.

It has been over a year since fighting erupted along the outskirts of Ma’rib, Al Jawf and Sana’a governorates, causing the displacement of nearly 150,000 people mostly towards Ma’rib city and surrounding areas.

Within the last month or so, over 10,000 people were forced to flee areas in Sirwah close to the frontline, many of whom have been displaced for the third time or more and continue to live in fear of, once again, losing their supposed refuges and having to run.

Displacement sites in Ma’rib are overcrowded, with worryingly limited access to essential services like clean water supplies. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) provides comprehensive WASH support to 16 displacement sites across the governorate.

 

Waste collection process at an IOM-constructed point in Ma’rib

 

Water Shortage

“We had a water network, but the supply was often interrupted because of old broken pipes,” said Hassan, a displaced person living in Maneen Al Hadad Displacement Site in Ma’rib’s Al Ashraf sub district.

“The pipes were rusty and so the system used to break down frequently. We were not able to easily pay for any maintenance from our own pockets, as families here live in poor conditions,” he added.

Due to the problems with the water network, Hassan’s family struggled to get enough water each day. Often, they were forced to travel long distances in search of working wells or required to pay large sums for purchasing and trucking water. Sometimes, they would be without water for several days, affecting the family’s health.

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“It was difficult to fetch water and carry it back to the displacement site because of the long distance to a working water well,” recalled Safaa, a displaced woman in another displacement site in Ma’rib called Al Kuseef.

IOM rehabilitated the worn-out water network, extended pipes to the shelters that previously had no access to the network and installed a submersible pump and generator to guarantee a continuous flow. Over 5,830 families also received 500-litre tanks since January 2020, which allowed them to safely store water.

“It was very hard for us whenever our flow of water would be interrupted. We had no way of storing water for these emergencies. The storage tanks are a solution to our problems. Now, we are prepared for any possible future water shortages and we can also keep the water clean,” explained Hassan.

displaced mother bathing her child at Al Jufainah site. Photo by Giles Clarke for UNOCHA 2020

 

Unsafe Sanitation

Four years ago, Yemen experienced the worst cholera outbreak in modern times, yet sanitation continues to be a major issue across the country, making humanitarians concerned about future outbreaks.

It is estimated that less than ten per cent of displaced people have access to a safe latrine. Lack of privacy, acute watery diarrhea and the spread of disease are some of the ordeals that displaced people—especially women and children who make up over 70 per cent of the population—face in the absence of a proper sanitation system.

IOM provided displaced families with cash to build their own latrines, using materials from local markets. Around 1,450 latrines have been constructed by the families so far. The Organization also trained the families in skills needed to safely build a latrine according to Sphere´s Humanitarian Standards.

Already, the positive results of an improved sanitation system have become evident for the displaced community.

“Now that we have our own latrines, we feel comfortable. We used to practice open defecation, which was causing diseases,” said Abdallah Ali, a member of the Muhamasheen community, a marginalized ethnic group in Yemen that often lives in makeshift shelters alongside displaced people. Abdallah Ali and his family live in Al Qasha’a Displacement Site, Ma’rib.

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But in Maneen Al Hadad Displacement Site, where Hassan lives, the displaced community had another sanitation problem.

“Because of open cesspits, we were suffering greatly from the spread of unpleasant odours, mosquitoes and flies,” explained Abdalkreem, Hassan’s neighbour and an environmental manager at the site.

The open pits scattered around the site caused concern for the residents. Families would not allow their children to go out to play, fearing that they might fall into one. Even grown-ups were afraid of going out at night for the same reason.

As part of its intervention, IOM helped over 300 displaced families to cover their open pits and feel safer.

“We feel more secure and less worried about allowing our children to play outside, and the unpleasant odours that filled the air have subsided. Luckily, this also got rid of one of the sources of flies and mosquitoes,” stated Abdalkreem in relief.

IOM partners carry out hygiene awareness sessions with displaced people in Ma’rib. Photo IOM 2020

 

Rubbish Everywhere

In Ma’rib, the displacement sites are crowded. Around 80 per cent of displacement sites have no access to reliable waste management systems, exacerbating environmental problems and the spread of disease.

“Before the cleaning campaign, garbage was spread throughout the site, and mosquitoes were everywhere spreading disease,” said Mohammed Al Azma, a displaced community representative living in Al Kuseef Site.

In many displacement sites, garbage would pile up and be thrown in random locations. This accumulation of solid waste was a source of anxiety for displaced families in Ma’rib, who worried about their children’s health. Heavy rains and flash floods made the situation even worse during the rainy season.

IOM launched solid waste management activities to provide a long-term solution for the waste problem. Starting by creating a hygiene and sanitation committee, IOM conducted a cleaning campaign in 14 displacement sites to remove the solid waste, constructed waste collection points, and distributed 40 litre waste buckets to collect and transport the garbage.

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The committees also supported IOM to provide hygiene promotions on solid waste management to the community. Once a site is cleaned, IOM starts the regular waste collection with the support of authorities and committees through mobilizing the community to conduct a regular mini cleaning campaign.

“The cleaning campaign reduced the spread of flies and decreased infection and fever among our community. We hope that IOM continues to support our garbage collection,” said Nusseibeh in Al Kuseef Site.


IOM-constructed toilets for new displaced arrivals at Al Jufainah. Photo by Giles Clarke for UNOCHA 2020
Raising Awareness

 

Raising Awareness

Along with the cleaning campaign, IOM also carried out hygiene and water management awareness sessions to teach people how to stay healthy by using and storing water properly, following correct hygiene practices and keeping their sites clean. These messages are vital to fighting COVID-19 and cholera.

“After the awareness sessions, we learned safe and healthy ways to transport and store water, as well as correct handwashing methods to limit the spread of communicable disease and combat the transmission of dangerous viruses,” explained Abdalkreem, the environmental manager of Maneen Al Hadad Site.

IOM’s awareness sessions also included sensitizing the displaced community on COVID-19 and cholera mitigation measures, water chlorination and latrines construction. Across the 16 sites, these sessions reached almost 17,900 displaced people in total.

Under the same project and to supplement the awareness-raising campaigns, IOM distributed nearly 7,870 hygiene kits, 696,000 pieces of soap and 70,000 long-lasting insecticidal nets to the displaced communities in Ma’rib.

This project is funded by EU Humanitarian Aid.

This article was written by Mennatallah Homaid, IOM Yemen’s Communications Assistant.

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IOM, UNHCR: Latest Caribbean shipwreck tragedy underscores need for safe pathways

International Organisation of Migration (

Geneva – The International Organization for Migration (IOM) and UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency are deeply saddened by the latest loss of at least two lives after a boat capsized off Venezuela’s shores on Thursday 22 April.

According to local authorities, at least 24 people including several children are believed to have been on board the boat heading towards the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago. Seven people were rescued by commercial Venezuelan vessels, and two bodies have so far been recovered, while rescue operations are ongoing to find other survivors among the 15 Venezuelans that are still unaccounted for according to authorities.

“The waters of the Caribbean Sea continue to claim the lives of Venezuelans,” said Eduardo Stein, Joint Special Representative of UNHCR and IOM for Venezuelan Refugees and Migrants. “As the conditions in the country continue to deteriorate – all worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic – people continue to undertake life-threatening journeys.”

This is the latest of several incidents involving the capsizing of boats carrying Venezuelan refugees and migrants towards Caribbean islands, the most recent reported near the Venezuelan city of Guiria in December last year.

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With land and maritime borders still closed to limit COVID-19 transmission, these journeys take place mainly through irregular routes, heightening the dangers as well as health and protection risks.

“Shipwrecks, tragic deaths at border crossings and further suffering are avoidable, but only if immediate and concerted international action is mobilized to find pragmatic solutions that put saving lives and protecting human rights at the forefront of any response,” added Stein.

“The establishment of regular and safe pathways, including through humanitarian visas and family reunification, as well as the implementation of protection-sensitive entry systems and adequate reception mechanisms, can prevent the use of irregular routes, smuggling and trafficking.”

UNHCR and IOM reiterate their readiness to lend support and technical expertise in exploring practical solutions to provide regular pathways that also take into account COVID-19 prevention measures. UNHCR and IOM, as co-leaders of the Interagency Coordination Platform for refugees and migrants from Venezuela (R4V), work with at least 24 other partners and governments across the Caribbean to meet the needs of refugees and migrants in the sub-region.

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There are over 5 million Venezuelan refugees and migrants around the world, 200,000 of whom are estimated to be hosted in the Caribbean.

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Searching for closure: New study examines challenges facing families of missing migrants in the UK

Most families in the UK seeing information about loved ones who went missing while in transit to the country are forced to rely on informal channels and networks, members of the diaspora abroad, and community-based associations. Illustration: Salam Shokor, 2021

Berlin – When a person goes missing, the existing laws, procedures and inter-state cooperation enable families to make the necessary arrangements and reach closure about the loss of their loved ones.

new report from the International Organization of Migration (IOM)’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre and Missing Migrants Project shows this is not the case for people across the United Kingdom who have missing migrant relatives.

“The families who participated in the research in the UK are some of the tens of thousands of people living worldwide with the pain of not knowing the fate of their loved ones who went missing or died during migration journeys,” said Frank Laczko, Director of IOM’s Global Migration Data Analysis Centre (GMDAC) in Berlin.

Over the past two years, IOM GMDAC has carried out qualitative research funded by Switzerland’s Federal Department of Foreign Affairs with families searching for missing migrants in several countries. The twin aims of the research are to amplify the voices of the families of missing migrants and develop a series of recommendations to drive action to support them.

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This new report shows that cases of missing migrants in the UK extend far beyond the English Channel.

Nearly 300 people are known to have died since 1999 along the northern coast of France, Belgium and the Netherlands, in the English Channel or shortly after crossing into the United Kingdom, according to records collected by IOM’s Missing Migrants Project and the Institute of  Race Relations. But the number of missing migrants en route to the UK is likely to be much higher. Many of the families involved in the research did not know the whereabouts or fate of their relatives in the Mediterranean Sea crossing and elsewhere.

“Besides the emotional toll, we know that the lives of people related to missing migrants may be forever marked by the many psychosocial, legal and financial impacts,” said Dipti Pardeshi, Chief of Mission of IOM in the UK.

“When I came here… I would cry every morning… I was crying over my loss and also because the future was uncertain then. I did not know what was going to happen,” said Emeka, a Nigerian woman living in the UK who is looking for her husband.

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“I didn’t know if I would get residence here, or if I was going to be deported. That was what I was facing then apart from the loss of family,” she continued.

With the exception of the tracing service offered by the British Red Cross and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), in the United Kingdom there are no agencies or policies specifically dedicated to help report, locate or identify cases involving migrants who went missing while in transit to the country. As a result, families primarily seek information about the missing and rely on support from informal channels and networks, members of the diaspora abroad, and community-based associations.

The research, carried out in collaboration with Dr. Samuel Okyere at the University of Bristol and IOM UK, found that families of missing migrants in the UK may be migrants themselves with fears that searching for their loved ones could lead to being prosecuted due to their uncertain immigration status.

IOM calls for action in the UK, and elsewhere, to support these families. Objective 8 of the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) specifically calls on states to identify those who have died or gone missing, and to facilitate communication with affected families. The report includes 10 recommendations for how families of missing migrants in the UK can be better supported to trace their relatives and to cope with the impacts of loss.

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Find the new report “Families of Missing Migrants: Their Search for Answers, the Impacts of Loss and Recommendations for Improved Support ” here.

“Living Without Them – Stories of families left behind” is a four-part podcast series produced by IOM about the research project with families of missing migrants. Listen to the third episode about the stories of families of missing migrants in the UK here.

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IOM’s Emergency Director in Mozambique: Communities uprooted by recent violence in Palma require greater support

IOM’s Director for Operations and Emergencies listens to communities affected by the recent violence in Cabo Delgado, northern Mozambique. Photo: Sandra Black/IOM

Pemba – Nearly 30,500 people displaced by recent violence in northern Mozambique face increased hardship as the humanitarian situation intensifies across Cabo Delgado province. Funds are urgently needed to respond to the emergency, which has displaced nearly 700,000 since the onset of violence in October 2017.

IOM’s Director of Operations and Emergencies, Jeff Labovitz, visited Mozambique this week to express condolences to the families of those who lost loved ones in the recent attacks in Palma, and solidarity with displaced and affected communities in Cabo Delgado.

“Cabo Delgado has seen unprecedented, rapidly increasing levels of displacement over the past year. Displaced people are vulnerable and in need of urgent and comprehensive humanitarian assistance,” said Labovitz.

“IOM is working with UN and non-governmental partners and supports the Government of Mozambique to alleviate the suffering of people who’ve been suddenly driven from their homes and communities.”

Labovitz met with humanitarian partners and government representatives, including from ministries and local authorities in the capital, Maputo, and in Cabo Delgado. He also visited resettlement sites in Metuge District and the Transit Site in Pemba, which hosts people recently displaced from Palma.

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He spoke with host families and with displaced people. Many expressed their desire to move to a safer place where they could resettle.

At the Transit Centre Labovitz spoke with Rabia, a woman displaced from Palma who recounted her harrowing experience:

“My husband was killed, but my two children and I survived. We moved between locations for several days without food or money. We made our way to Afungi and from there we boarded a flight to Pemba.”

“I am going to persevere, but the situation is very difficult. I don’t know how I’m going to provide for my children without a space to live or equipment to start farming,” she added.

IOM’s Displacement Tracking Matrix (DTM) continues to record, on a daily basis, increased numbers of people displaced from Palma to safer areas. Several days in the last month have seen more than 1,000 arrivals per day. Of the displaced, 75 per cent are women and children – including pregnant women and unaccompanied children – and more than 1,000 of the total have been elderly.

“Remarkably the communities of Cabo Delgado – who themselves have increasing humanitarian needs – host the vast majority of displaced individuals. Support from the international community is needed to relieve some of this pressure and focus more attention and support,” continued Labovitz.

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He commended the government’s provision of land for displaced families in resettlement sites, which enable families to cultivate land and restart their lives. IOM-supported efforts to establish these sites aim to ensure more dignified living conditions for residents.

IOM is working together with humanitarian partners to carry out multi-sectoral assessments in order to guide the delivery of humanitarian supplies, including in hard-to-reach areas. The situation in Cabo Delgado remains critical, especially in areas that, due to the security situation, are inaccessible to humanitarian actors.

“Sadly, calls for greater funding for this emergency have gone largely unmet.  We need to come together to ensure that people have access to water and sanitation, shelter and food and are protected from gender-based violence and other forms of abuse,” Labovitz said.

IOM continues to provide support to people displaced from Cabo Delgado through the provision of psychosocial support, protection assistance, support and referrals for health services, shelter and non-food items, camp coordination and camp management. The Organization is also tracking populations and their needs through DTM to inform the response. Most recent displacement figures are available here.

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In 2021, IOM requires USD 58 million to support emergency and post crisis efforts in Mozambique under IOM Mozambique Crisis Response Plan, which includes USD 21.7 million to respond to immediate lifesaving  humanitarian needs in northern Mozambique through this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan.

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s plans and funding requirements to respond to the evolving needs and aspirations of those impacted by, or at risk of, crisis and displacement in 2021 and beyond.

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