A protracted dispute between refugees in southern Yemen’s Al-Kharaz camp and the UN’s refugee agency UNHCR over identity cards appears to have been resolved, after food aid and other services had been temporarily suspended.
The leader of the Somali wing in the camp, Abdikadir Ibrahim Shaah, told Radio Ergo they had reached an agreement with UNHCR to cooperate with the documentation and registration exercise, which was started last August and later abandoned because of refugee resistance.
Full services to the camp are expected to resume soon, as the refugees accepted registration for new identity cards that do not bear the date of entry to Yemen.
UNHCR said the registration process was needed to update the old figures from 2013, showing the camp had a population of 15,950 people. The current population is expected to be considerably lower.
Abdikadir said up to 5,000 refugees had not received any aid for the last three months and that 20 people suffering from diarrhoea were in need of medication.
He said there had been drastic cuts to the food supplies since last year. They used to get rice, flour and cooking oil, which was reduced to wheat and later to nothing at all.
Asho Ibrahim Ali, who joined Al-Kharaz camp in 1992, said the suspension of aid had caused hardship. She said it was especially hard for the vulnerable TB, HIV/AIDS and diarrhoea patients, who needed constant medical attention.
Asho and her family of 10 are heavily dependent on aid distributions although she also sells foodstuffs including flour and sugar from a stall in the camps to earn extra cash.
Whilst she welcomed the pending resumption of aid, she expressed concern that food might have been kept in storage for a long time in the heat and might have gone bad.
According to UNHCR, services were temporarily suspended in December after resistance to the registration process resulted in direct threats from refugee leaders towards UNHCR and partner staff.
UNHCR’s Yemen spokesperson, Shabia Mantoo, said that essential services such as emergency health, electricity supply and water provision and cash for persons living with specific needs had continued in the camp.
“Refugee registration is the responsibility of national authorities, represented by IPNA (the Immigration, Passports and Naturalization Authority), but carried out with the support of UNHCR. Refugee leaders have raised concerns over the lack of reference to the date of entry on the new ID cards but the decision to issue the new ID cards was centralised at the country level as per a decision taken in 2013 and any changes to national ID cards for refugees will be difficult to implement,” Mantoo told Radio Ergo.
UNHCR said a food distribution was planned for this month but the current security situation in Aden has slowed things down. The World Food Programme was maintaining the food ration at 2,100 kcal per person and ensured quality control.
Meanwhile, refugees complain about the general conditions in the camp in Al-Kharaz where there are no opportunities for work. Camp leaders say many refugees do manual jobs in villages around the camp and some travel as far as Aden, almost 200 km away, to get cash jobs as porters or washing cars to earn enough to support their children and families.