Displaced families relocated from schools in Ta’iz Governorate
On 20 February, a long-running inter-cluster endeavor came to fruition as 106 displaced families were successfully relocated from two schools in Ash Shamayatayn District in Ta’iz Governorate to a new hosting site within the same district. The families had been living in the two schools – Al-Noman and Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed in the At Turbah area – since July 2015, when hostilities drove people to flee Ta’iz City for surrounding areas. This resulted in the closure of the Al-Noman school as well as 16 out of 24 classes at the Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed school, affecting some 950 students who as a result faced longer and riskier journeys to other schools and increased congestion in classes that remained open.
To enable the resumption of education services at the schools, the Ash Shamayatayn District authorities and host community entreated for the relocation of the displaced families to alternative hosting sites. Aid partners raised this appeal with the Government of Yemen’s Executive Unit for Internally Displaced Persons (ExU) in 2019, with the ExU subsequently proposing six potential sites. Three of these were rejected on protection grounds, while two others were refused by the landowners. As time progressed, the displaced families endured increasing insecurity and risk of eviction, as disgruntlement among the host community grew about their protracted occupancy of the schools and delays in their relocation. Ultimately, local authorities set a deadline by which the schools had to be vacated – 30 November 2020 – after which the families faced forcible expulsion.
Given the grave risk this posed to the people living in the two schools, OCHA engaged with the Governor of Ta’iz, successfully requesting that no deadline be imposed before an alternative site was available as well as assurances that the displaced families would be protected from harm. Efforts were increased to locate a suitable site, and one was finally identified and approved by a multisectoral team in the first half of December 2020. Site preparations quickly commenced. The ExU was designated to pave the site and prepare access roads, and humanitarian partners across sectors coordinated to make the site habitable. By early February 2021, 97 shelters had been installed by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and nine more by the UNHCR partner Suna’a Al-Nahda, while the International Organization for Migration (IOM) installed the most needed water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) facilities, and cluster partners including for Food Security and Agriculture (FSAC), Health and Protection were standing by to provide their services at the site. Preparations continued in the weeks that followed, and the displaced families were moved from the schools to the new site on 20 February.
With the two schools in Ash Shamayatayn District now vacated, the Education Cluster plans to implement rehabilitation activities and replace materials to rectify the damage and wear and tear incurred as a result of over five years of residential occupancy. Through this collective effort, humanitarian partners were able to provide safe and dignified accommodation to the displaced families while also returning the two schools to educational service for children living in proximity to Al- Noman and Al-Fajr Al-Jadeed.