Finding Fuel: IOM Helps a Displaced Family Cook Safely

Salem's family using their stove in the poor conditions of their tent, prior to receiving shelter support from IOM.

Sana’a – The ongoing conflict in Yemen has driven the country to the brink of famine. The worsening situation and persistent armed clashes have led to a surge in the number of displaced people forced to flee danger, leaving behind their homes. For people displaced from the conflict, accessing fuel and stoves necessary to cook meals and sustain their families can be nearly impossible amidst the chaos of conflict.

According to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) Displacement Tracking Matrix, roughly 3.65 million displaced people currently live in thousands of informal sites across the country. Most of these displacement sites have no management structure nor health care facilities. More than 25 per cent of displaced people lack proper housing.

A displacement site in Yemen. The country is now home to 3.65 million displaced people.

Displaced people, particularly those living in self-built shelters, can face a multitude of problems in the structures where they are sheltering, such as lack of privacy, unhygienic conditions and exposure to flooding and severe weather. They may also experience negative interactions with host communities and limited access to basic lifesaving services, which in turn can lead to further difficulties.

Salem Murshad Qa’aed Abdul is a 55-year-old father of six, with three sons and three daughters. Constant clashes in the Al Ma’afer district of Taizz governorate have forced Salem and his family to flee from his village nearly 35 kilometers to the Ash Shamayatayn district.

Since the start of the conflict, the family has already been forced to move twice.

They first moved to a small room at a farm before being evicted by the landlord. The family then travelled to Al Dhuhra displacement site where they settled in a simple tent, with sub-standard living conditions.

Not only did the distressed family bear the anguish of leaving their home, but when they left the displacement site to run errands in the nearby village, they were often exposed to insecurity, prejudice and verbal abuse. Displaced communities are seen by some as competitors for jobs and natural resources.

“My wife and children were under continuous harassment whenever they tried to gather wood near the village to be used as fuel for cooking,” says Salem.

Without access to fuel in the displacement site and deterred from travelling to the village, the family resorted to using plastic bottles from the road for their cooking fuel – a practice that is not only harmful for the environment but also dangerous to a person’s health.

Some displaced children in a Yemeni displacement site.

As part of an IOM project that supports displaced people, the family was provided a full kitchen set, which contained a stove and gas cylinder. IOM’s intervention, funded by the European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO), has meant that the family can now cook their meals safely.

With their own cooking set and fuel, the family no longer needs to gather wood near the village or burn toxic plastic to cook their meals. The risks of being harassed by strangers outside the displacement site is greatly reduced.

The IOM team also provided the family with a full solar power system, allowing Salem’s children to read and study in the evenings and keeping the entire family safer throughout the night.

“It is now possible for my family to cook meals easily and safely whenever we want to. Having solar energy in our tent has brought us a sense of security and allows us to have a normal life during the night without fear or worry,” says Salem.

“Our priority is a safe shelter. The tent, we are living in does not protect us from the rain, and my children often sleep outside the tent because it is so small. This exposes our children to many risks such as mosquitos, illnesses and other dangers,” he adds.

Despite the limitations in accessing areas like Al Ma’afer, IOM was able to go back to the site and provide Salem’s family and other households in the area with shelter kits which include materials to rebuild their shelter and protect them from heavy rains. However, as the ongoing conflict escalates, it becomes increasingly difficult to reach displaced communities like Salem’s.

Salem’s family hopes that the conflict will soon end, and they will be able to return home and rebuild their lives. He also dreams of the day when he can have a secure income and provide his wife and children with a better life.

This article was written by Mennatallah Homaid (Media & Communication Assistant) and Muna Al-Ba’adani (Field Assistant).