The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is facing major funding shortfalls for its programs in Yemen. It is less well known that one of these food aid initiatives provides life-saving aid to thousands of refugees from Somalia.
Camps in Southern Yemen are home to these refugees, who have fled the violence in their own country. Their assistance programs are now at risk because of the overall funding shortage for WFP.
Maria Santamarina of WFP recently compiled stories of the some of the refugees in these camps. Excerpts from the stories are published below.
Library of Stories – Refugees
Bosteo – Kharaz Refugee Camp – Nov 2009
Bosteo Adan, her husband and son fled Somalia after her husband was nearly killed by warring tribesmen. They arrived in Yemen in 1992 through a perilous boat crossing with nothing but a few belongings. Her family were among the first refugees to arrive and settle Al-Sha’ab camp (the camp at the time located in Aden) where shelter, food and non food items were provided.
Since her arrival, the camp has been relocated four times. Bosteo’s husband is illiterate and odd casual labor is not sufficient to maintain his family, leaving them no choice but to live in the camp.
Currently living in Kharaz camp, Bosteo’s family has increased to 12 children – 9 girls and 3 boys. Her husband often leaves the camp for extended periods in order to search for employment, and when able will send small amounts of money to the family.
“My family has only been saved from perishing all these years thanks to the monthly general food ration provided by WFP,” said Bosteo. School feeding meals have also encouraged her children to attend school and helped improve the family’s food consumption all the while reducing expenditures at the household level.
Hinda – Kharaz Refugee Camp – Dec 2009
Hinda Othaman Omar fled to Yemen in 1991 from Mogadishu. But Yemen is poor she said, and wanted to flee elsewhere but could only afford the move to here. Since arriving in Yemen she has always been living in the camps. “All I know is my block in the camp, the school where my 5 children attend, and the WFP distribution site.”
Hinda dreams of being resettled with her whole family, but continues to be grateful for the help provided by aid agencies. “WFP is my father and my mother. It has been feeding me and my family for the 19 years now. Here in the camp we are all children of WFP.”
Fatima – Kharaz Refugee Camp – Dec 2009
Fatima Abdullahi arrived in 2008 from Kara’an in Somalia where she worked as a teacher. Her village was small and distant and the fighting was not intense. A few years back the situation worsened, with heavy artillery and fighting in the village and reports of rape. Her husband is diabetic and with high blood pressure and so they decided that the family could no longer safely stay in their village. They wanted to move to safe areas within Somalia but quickly decided that it would be best to flee the country.
Fatima crossed from Djibouti with her husband, 3 adolescent children, and her sister in law to Yemen. The chose the country because of the shared religion and open policy towards refugees, as well as stories that WFP and UNHCR were doing a lot to try and make life okay for the refugees.
Shaaman – Kharaz Refugee Camp – Feb 2010
Shaaman, like many other refugees, fled to Yemen early on and Kharaz is the fifth camp he has moved to.
Life in the camp is extremely difficult. There is no durable work. “Our only hope is the food which WFP provides. We rely entirely on WFP. When the agency faces shortfalls and rations must be reduced, we have no choice but to send our daughters and sons to Aden to try and get some casual labor in order to get some food for the family.”
Khadija – Kharaz Refugee Camp – Feb 2010
Khadija and her family of 8 persons fled from Mogadishu to Yemen at the outbreak of the war, however they later returned in the hopes of re-building their lives. Unfortunately the prolonged situation forced them to cross for a second time to Yemen and live in the camp.
“My husband is sick so we have no income. We depend entirely on WFP food for survival.”
Her two youngest sons – 10 months and 1.5 years – are enrolled in the camp’s mother/child health care programme, through which WFP provides blanket nutrition assistance to children 6-59 months of age. Her six children are all in school and benefit from daily school meals provided by WFP. In addition, the family receives full monthly free food rations from the agency.
Rahma – Kharaz Refugee Camp – Feb 2010
Rahma’s family consists of ten people, including eight children. She has been divorced for three years. Since the family fled in 1991 they have always lived in the camps.
“We have some minimal livestock and when we need money I try and find work as a maid. Life is very difficult. Thank God we have the food WFP provides us,” said Rahma.
Rahma’s eight children have all benefited from the school meals provided and she herself has also received nutrition support during pregnancy/lactation from WFP, in addition to their monthly rations.
Zainab – BasateenSchool – Dec 2010
Basateen is an urban slum area of Aden which is host to impoverished Yemenis and refugees from the Horn of Africa. WFP provides nutrition support as well as daily schools meals to the children in the local school and health center.
Zainab has been teaching English and Science for 17 years and is working at the Basateen school. Although schooling is free, the required uniform is costly for parents, especially those in Basateen who rely on casual labor. However, since WFP has been providing school meals, attendance and the health status of children has drastically improved and there have been no serious disease outbreaks in the school.
“Because of the food provided, students are studying more and concentrating better,” said Zainab. “The wheat soya blend porridge has certainly helped. My students’ minds are more alert and active during the school day and they are attending more school days.”
See also Unrest in Yemen over food shortages, will U.S. and its allies act?
For background on the crisis in Somalia please visit the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC). This organization, started by Marla Ruzicka, advocates for victims of conflicts across the globe.
photo courtesy WFP/Peter Smerdon