Flash floods have destroyed half of the tents and caused widespread damage at three camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) near Haradh, northwestern Yemen.
More than 8,000 camp residents are affected, while overall the torrential rains and flash floods, which started in mid-August, have killed 39 people and destroyed homes, schools and infrastructure.
“The tents were old and leaking, and UNHCR [UN Refugee Agency] was preparing to replace them before the storm hit,” said Erich Ogoso, public information and advocacy officer for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
“It was tough for the IDPs, as they scrambled to cover food and other items that could be damaged by the water and protect children from the heavy rain.”
The three Mazraq IDP sites were set up in Hajjah Governorate on the border with Saudi Arabia when Yemenis fled from neighbouring Sa’dah Governorate in 2009 during a civil conflict between the army and Zaidi Shiite Houthi rebels.
Although a truce has held since 2010, most of the displaced have yet to return, fearing more insecurity and awaiting reconstruction.
In addition to the tents, the winds damaged more than 600 latrines; 20 classrooms and outpatient rooms at ADRA’s (Adventist Development and Relief Agency) clinic were also “extensively damaged”, according to OCHA.
UNHCR has started handing out 1,000 new tents to residents at all three sites, and further supplies are due to arrive from the capital Sana’a. Oxfam will rehabilitate 400 latrines, while the Ministry of Education is sending tents to replace the damaged classrooms. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) is assessing the damage.
“Since the devastating floods of 2008, Yemen has made some progress in disaster risk reduction and is engaged in projects to reduce vulnerability to natural disasters,” said Ogoso. “For humanitarian organizations, the latest flooding shows why early warning and pre-positioning of stocks in areas that are disaster-prone are important.”
Aid agencies are not appealing for additional funding, but this year’s Humanitarian Response Plan for US$702 million is only 43 percent funded so far.