Ma’rib – One day while crossing one of the mountains in Medghal, young shepherds Naji, Ibrahim and Abdullah were herding their sheep when they found a strange metal object and became curious.
Abdullah started playing with the object, trying to figure out what it was. Despite his cousins’ warnings to leave it and keep moving, Abdullah insisted on giving it one last hit.
Suddenly, the object exploded. Abdullah’s life was taken by the landmine and Naji and Ibrahim were badly injured.
“There were heavy clashes that day, so no one noticed the mine explosion sound,” explained Naji.
Since that day, life has never been the same for the young teenagers. Ibrahim and Naji had to go through many operations and were hospitalized for a month.
Sadly, Ibrahim’s right ankle was amputated, and his eyes were badly affected. Naji also lost his foot and suffered from serious internal bleeding in his intestines.
Alarmingly, more than 10,000 children have been killed or maimed in conflict-related incidents since the war in Yemen began, according to the UN’s Children Fund.
Last year when clashes approached Madghal, Ibrahim and Naji’s families were forced to flee to Ma’rib city.
The International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix estimates that 78,500 people were displaced by conflict in Ma’rib last year, especially later in the year when fighting greatly intensified.
"For six years, we refused to leave our home, in the hope that the war would end. Instead, it became more vicious. We found that many souls and lives were already lost because of this war, so we decided to leave and save what’s left,” said Ali, the 58-year-old father of Ibrahim.
The family settled in Saylat Al Mil Camp which is located near Ma’rib City.
Building a shelter for the family was Ali’s main concern when he arrived.
Ali brought Ibrahim and his six other children, 11 grandchildren, along with his father and brothers’ families, to a displacement site near Ma’rib City.
“We used to have farms where we grew vegetables and wheat. We used to have flocks of cattle, sheep, cows and camels. We used to give to others and never needed to ask anyone for anything,” added Ali.
When the big family decided to leave, they first moved the women and children to Ma’rib. The men followed the next day.
“I built my shelter from wood, plastic and fabric that hardly stood up for six months under the heat of the sun amid the sandy and windy weather,” explained Ali.
In a year, the fragile shelters that Ali established were damaged and worn out by the harsh environment.
IOM in Ma’rib works side by side with displaced families to help them rehabilitate or upgrade worn-out shelters.
The IOM shelter team assesses damaged shelters and engages in focus group discussion with beneficiaries to identify the items they need to improve their shelters.
Families in Saylat Al Mil are supported with insulation rolls, plastic sheets and maintenance tool kits to help those in need maintain and fix up their shelters.
Ali’s family is one of hundreds of families that received shelter upgrade materials in April.
The family worked together to install fireproof thermal insulation materials on top of the internal walls of their shelters and roofs which minimize the heat and cold. They also put plastic sheets on the exterior to cover the outside roofs and walls to protect the shelter from the rain.
The maintenance tool kit can also support families to make rapid repairs and upgrades to any damage in the shelter.
“We are constantly trying to meet other basic needs such as medicine and food. We cannot afford to buy or replace items to maintain our shelter,” said Ali.
“Having a safe shelter is one of the most important needs in life. It ensures the security and safety of the family. It is our first protection from the harsh climate, disease and sickness. It is also necessary to keep our dignity and humanity,” the father said, adding that he is grateful that Ibrahim and Naji now have a safer and more comfortable place to spend their days.
The UN estimates that 7.4 million people across Yemen need shelter support, a 34 per cent increase compared with 2021.
Since the beginning of the year, the IOM shelter rehabilitation programme, which is funded by King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), has improved the living conditions of more than 2,500 families in 11 sites in Ma’rib.
This story was written by Elham Al Oqabi and Mennatallah Homaid, Communication Assistant