Yemen: Torrential rains destroy camps for thousands of internally displaced people

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Yemeni authorities and human rights organisations are sounding the alarm over the dire conditions in camps for internally displaced people (IDP) triggered by torrential rains that ravaged eastern Yemen on July 13-14. The rains were especially destructive in the Marib region where there are more than a hundred camps. Numerous images of the destruction have since circulated on social media.

More than 2,500 displaced families living in Marib, in eastern Yemen, lost their homes after several days of torrential rain and flooding, according to a report by the government’s Executive Unit for IDP camps published on July 15. The report stated that more than 10,000 other families experienced "some damage.”

The video below shows torrents of water coursing through Al Jufainah, the largest displaced persons camp in Yemen, according to the United Nations. The video was filmed the night of July 14.

"Displaced people in Marib are crying out for help, torrents of water flooded their homes and washed away tents,” reads this Facebook post from July 14.

The floods, caused by intense rains, followed a week of intense sandstorms.

Nearly 197 displaced persons camps are located in this area, including Camp 71 in the city of Marib. Marib region currently shelters 62% of the total population of people who have been internally displaced since the conflict began in Yemen. The unit governing these camps called the current situation a “real humanitarian catastrophe” in a recent statement.

"Other neighbouring camps were also affected, but the authorities haven’t yet communicated any information about the situation there", says a Yemeni journalist who lives in a town near the Jufainah camp. He told the France 24 Observers team that he hadn’t been able to visit the camps himself because of the flooding.

This image shows brick homes flooded or partially destroyed by the rain in Al Jufainah, the largest camp for internally displaced persons in Marib.

"Thousands of people lost everything: homes, belongings, tents…”

Saif Mouthana is the director of the government unit that manages IDP camps in Marib. He explains:

Families of displaced persons were transferred to schools near the affected camps. Other families have been welcomed in neighbouring camps that didn’t experience such extensive damages.

Yemeni journalist and activist Ibrahim al-Jahdabi traveled to the Al Jufainah camp on Thursday, July 14 to survey the damage.

Thousands of people lost everything: homes, belongings, tents… but for the time being, our teams haven’t recorded any loss of human life. We need food, housing and supplies to meet people’s basic needs like medicine and hygiene products.

Right now, there are at least 16 flooded camps in different districts of Marib. The Al Jufainah camp alone is home to more than 71,000 displaced persons who fled fighting in several southern districts under the control of Houthi militias.

Torrential rain causes extensive damage to the IDP camps in Marib nearly every year.

In 2020, 5,000 displaced families lost their homes because of flooding. Social media users and Yemeni commentators often blame the authorities because they say that Al Jufainah camp is located in an area prone to flooding.

According to the IOM, the number of families living in longterm displacement is only increasing.

Since the start of the war in 2014, there have been nearly 4.3 million people internally displaced in Yemen.

These overpopulated camps are often damaged by flooding and fire. Families here have been “forced to build their own accommodation, using blankets and plastic sheeting,” said a 2021 report by the United Nations agency for refugees. The report stated that the humanitarian needs of displaced people in Yemen had reached “alarming levels” and blamed lack of humanitarian aid on insecurity and the proximity of these camps to combat zones.

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