ShelterBox, a global humanitarian relief organization based in Santa Barbara, will start providing emergency shelter in Yemen next month, responding to what the United Nations has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Since Yemen’s civil war began in 2014, approximately four million civilians have fled their homes.
For the past two years, spring flooding has been caused by heavy rains, leading to fears for a recurrence this spring as concerns rise about the spread of COVID-19, cholera and malaria. Whole communities have been forced to flee their homes to set up new shelters, only to have to relocate again due to extreme weather or changes on the frontlines of the conflict.
It has been impossible to send humanitarian aid for many years due to air blockades. Two-thirds of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, and most have been displaced from their home for more than two years. ShelterBox will start distributing aid next month, including tarps, water filters, mosquito nets, kitchen sets, solar lights, soap, and wash basins.
“The civil war has devastated the economy, destroyed critical infrastructure, and left millions homeless in Yemen. Families in Ma’rib have been forced to build makeshift shelters from sticks, rags, plastic sheeting, and anything they can find, as they fight for their survival between COVID-19 and a brutal conflict that has left them displaced and without access to basic services. ShelterBox is working with the humanitarian coordination system in Yemen to address the most urgent needs, providing emergency shelter and essential household items to help the most vulnerable people. Our tents, tarps, sleeping mats, tools, kitchen sets, and equipment will help provide privacy and protection to people living in overcrowded camps, damaged homes, and abandoned buildings. We are doing everything possible to expand our capacity to provide lifesaving relief in Yemen,” said ShelterBox President Kerri Murray.
ShelterBox aid will aim to provide safe drinking water and protection from torrential rains, as well as Covid-19 and other diseases. Since the conflict intensified in 2021, Ma’rib, once a safe haven for people who had to flee their homes, is becoming less safe. People are moving within the region, which is already home to the highest number of displaced people in Yemen, to find safety.
Ahmed, a father of five, was forced to leave his home after it was destroyed by heavy rains.
“We are still suffering. We are four families in one tent due to rains and floods. If the weather is cloudy or windy, we feel anxious and worry for what is going to happen later,” said Ahmed.
Eshraq, a mother of three, who also cares for her sick husband, said her first thought was how to save her children.
“Rain and floods came over and everything in my house was totally destroyed, everything has gone. We are still suffering. There isn’t a place for my children to sleep, they sleep in the yard outside the tent. We have no place to go to. We are suffering a lot. Our life is worse than anyone can imagine, we just feel afraid and anxious,” said Eshraq.