The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) indicated today that prior to tropical cyclone Chapala making landfall on Yemen last Tuesday, the agency had moved 1,000 tents and 3,000 non-food items kits into a number of governorates to support people in affected areas.
“Strong winds, heavy rains and flooding destroyed house, boats and livestock, and disrupted services,” UNHCR spokesperson Andreas Needham told reporters at the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva.
“Early reports indicate that around 1,600 families have been displaced in Hadramaut, some 150 in Shabwah, 25 in Al Maharah, and hundreds more on Socotra,” he added, noting that UNHCR is bringing in 5,000 emergency shelter kits to the city of Al Mukalla.
Throughout the preparations and response, UNHCR said it has been coordinating with authorities, other UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, and through the sub-national Protection and Shelter Clusters in Aden.
“The effects of Chapala have been most severe in Shabwah and Hadramaut, with a combined population of about 1.9 million people,” Mr. Needham continued. “Jilaa, a village of around 1,150 persons in Shabwah governorate was completely washed away and further reports are coming in of devastation. Seventy six per cent [1.4 million] of the population in these governorates were already in need of humanitarian assistance, which includes over 100,000 displaced people and over 27,000 refugees and migrants.”
Meanwhile, in advance of the cyclone, the Yemeni island of Socotra situated 350km from the mainland in the Arabian Sea, also experienced widespread destruction and displacement, with many taking shelter in caves, schools, or in the homes of relatives. At least 170 houses on the island were fully damaged and a further 610 partially damaged.
UNHCR in Yemen reported is has been in contact with colleagues in Somaliland and Puntland to dissuade refugees, asylum-seekers, and migrants – primarily from Ethiopia and Somalia – from taking boats to Yemen due to the dangerous conditions at sea as a result of Chapala.
“There have been no reported new arrivals since 1 November,” the spokesperson noted. “Thus far in 2015 UNHCR has counted nearly 70,000 new arrivals along the Red and Arabian Sea coasts. Over 11,000 arrived in October along the Arabian Sea coast and received reception and medical services from UNHCR's Mayfa'a reception centre in Shabwah, which so far weathered well through the storm with only minor damage to the premises.”
UNHCR has also been informed that a new tropical storm is on its way and may develop in a second cyclone, to reach Socotra on Sunday. Along with other humanitarian agencies, it announced further scaling up of preparedness and response measures. In addition, Mr. Needham said his colleagues in Somalia have once again issued warnings to would-be crossers through partner and community networks.
Over the last several months arrivals had shifted primarily to the Arabian Sea coast to avoid intense conflict areas centred in Taiz governorate situated on the Red Sea coast of Yemen. According to the UN, Yemen has 21.1 million persons in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including access to food, health care and safe drinking water, and over 2.3 million internally displaced persons stemming from the escalation of the conflict since late March of this year.