Thousands 0f Yemenis displaced by the ongoing conflict have sought shelter in schools, disabling the war-torn country’s education system, say local authorities.
“Life here is hopeless,” says Um Amani, a single mother of two young children who was forced to seek refuge in a school in the centre of Aden after her house was shelled in the recent conflict. “We resorted to this school like hundreds of other families who had no place to go,” she adds, stressing that one of her children has a digestive disorder and is in desperate need of medical care.
Um Amani says more than two-dozen families are forced to share one bathroom at Edris Hanbalah Primary School. “The school is rife with diseases due to poor hygiene, bad sanitation and food shortages,” Um Amani told Al-Yemeni.
Initial statistics show that more than 2,500 families took refuge in 18 schools upon the fall of four of Aden’s eight districts to armed militias. Nearly 90 percent of the residents of these districts, including the Dar Sad District – the entry point to Aden – which has borne the brunt of the war – fled to the other four districts controlled by the ‘resistance’, not to mention those who have fled other governorates, such as Ibb, Lahij and Dhale, to come to Aden.
Schools of IDPs
Adnan Kaf, a spokesman for the Aden People Relief Coalition, says between 5,000 and 8,000 people who lost their homes have been temporarily lodged in a number of schools, apartments and hotels, albeit with no support from the government.
Kaf estimates that more than 700,000 people have been displaced in the districts of Khormaksar, Crater, Mualla and Tawahi in Aden, in addition to some areas in the governorates of Lahij and Dhale, since the beginning of the conflict.
Local NGOs and support groups say the government has failed to adequately respond to the humanitarian and housing crises. “They (the IDPs) are threatened with vagrancy, loss and family dissolution unless their situation is dealt with urgently and seriously, especially since the majority of these families are poor,” says Mawa Awad, director of Wogood for Human Security, a local support group. “This issue should be a top priority like the issue of the injured and wounded, especially since it is connected with human rights and should be treated as such.”
Awad claims that the Aden General Work and Road Bureau (AGWRB), a government office, is tasked with accommodating the Internally Displaced People (IDPs), yet local authorities seem more concerned with reopening the schools than finding lasting solutions to relocate the displaced.
“The school year should have started,” says Salem Meghless, director of the Aden Directorate of Education (ADoE). “Schools should be evacuated in order to start the educational process.”
In early October, most of the families living in shelters were relocated, but 27 families, including Um Amani’s, are still living in the Edris Hanbalah School’s 30 classrooms, preventing nearly 1,500 children from restarting their education. The last occupants of the school know they too face an uncertain future. “I am afraid that one day we will have no roof over our heads, especially since officials came to the school and asked us to leave,” says Um Amani.
Director of Education Meghless says the schools will soon be cleared, regardless of whether alternative accommodation is found for the families currently sheltering in schools.
“Where on earth will we go?” laments Um Amani.
The AGWRB, the government agency charged with reconstruction, is still calculating the number of destroyed homes, but no mechanism has been set in motion to relocate those whose homes have been destroyed.