ECHO to fund improved housing for refugees

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid Office (ECHO) is to make available 500,000 euros to rehabilitate and construct new shelters for thousands of refugees in southern Yemen, an ECHO official has said.

The project will benefit African (mainly Somali) refugees at Kharaz refugee camp and the Ahwar reception and registration centre, both of which are run by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).

Kharaz, 150km west of Aden, is Yemen's biggest refugee camp and home to over 9,000 refugees, according to UNHCR.

ECHO would transfer the funds to UNHCR to allow it to upgrade all shelters in Kharaz camp, and some of the funds would be used to build new concrete shelters at Kharaz and Ahwar, ECHO official Philippe Royan told IRIN.

Each new shelter would have an individual latrine and mosquito mesh protection, and street lighting would also be provided to improve security, he said.

“Urgent need to improve shelter capacity in the Ahwar and Kharaz camps was drawn to our attention by the mandated agency, UNHCR,” he added.

In 2007 ECHO funded a similar project at Kharaz camp at an estimated cost of 800,000 euros.

Photo: Muhammed al-Jabri/IRIN
The ECHO project will benefit African (mainly Somali) refugees at Kharaz refugee camp

Reception centres

There are two UNHCR-run refugee reception centres in southern Yemen - Ahwar (Abyan Governorate) and Mayfaa (Shabwa Governorate), but new arrivals are not obliged to register.

After staying for about three days the refugees are given a choice - to be moved to Kharaz camp or make their own way elsewhere in Yemen.

A recent INTERSOS rapid assessment report on the two reception centres highlighted the lack of timely response to the needs of new arrivals in terms of food, water and medical assistance.

It also said there were no organised recreational activities for children and young people, and counselling for those who had lost relatives or close friends did not exist.

“Children and refugees in general should be given more attention and support at the reception centres in order to better identify cases in need of further individual care,” the report said.

According to UNHCR, 50,091 African refugees arrived in Yemen in 2008 (70 percent more than the 2007 figure); at least 590 drowned and another 359 went missing at sea.