Conflict Escalation in Ma'rib Displaces 8,000 Yemenis in Two Weeks

Displaced people transport multiple family belongings together from one displacement site in Sirwah, Marib, to another in search of safety. Photo: IOM/Elham Al Oqabi

This press release was updated on 25 February 2021

Ma'rib – Increased hostilities in Yemen’s Ma'rib governorate have led to the displacement of at least 8,000 people in recent weeks, bringing the total number of displacements in that part of the country to more than 116,000. 

Humanitarian partners estimate that as many as another 385,000 people also may be displaced if the frontline continues to shift, in addition to the hundreds of thousands more people in Ma'rib city proper who could be impacted by the fighting. Partners warn that such a development would stretch humanitarian resources far beyond what teams in the area presently have capacity for. 

The latest epicentre of violence is Sirwah, a mountainous district in Ma'rib governorate. The district hosts around 30,000 displaced people in at least 14 displacement sites, three of which were directly impacted by fighting in recent weeks, including one that was completely emptied of already displaced people fleeing again to safety. 

“Displacement sites should be refuges,” said John McCue, the International Organization for Migration (IOM)´s Deputy Chief of Mission in Yemen. “All civilians – including displaced people – must be afforded protection from the fighting. The local community in Ma'rib has long welcomed vulnerable displaced people, but today the situation is far beyond something they can manage alone.”  

An estimated 50 per cent of those displaced by the fighting in Sirwah are women, while 30 per cent are children. Their most urgent needs include shelter, water and sanitation, health and food.  

“Four days ago, there were explosions over our heads, so we fled to one area where we stayed for two days before coming here (Al Rawda),” explained Saliha, an elderly displaced woman who was forced to leave a displacement site in Sirwah.  

“We had to run to save our lives and we couldn’t take anything with us,” she said, explaining that she is the lone caregiver for her 40-year-old son living with a mental disability. “I asked some people to try bringing some of my belongings here for me, but nothing has arrived yet. I haven’t set up my tent, as I am an old woman and I need help. The past few nights I have slept as a guest in my neighbour’s tent; I also eat with them. They were already living here when we came.” 

“I no longer fear death. I am tired of life. But I do fear becoming injured or disabled because I have no one to take care of me and I fear my son’s condition is getting worse,” Saliha added, speaking over the sound of a nearby explosion.  

A majority of the newly displaced had been living in displacement sites — some even reported carrying their shelters with them to their new locations — and are currently displaced within Sirwah district. However, many of these people plan to move further east towards Ma'rib city due to the unstable situation and concerns over their safety. 

In 2020, displacement to and within Ma'rib accounted for two-thirds of all displacement in Yemen, and prior to that IOM had recorded roughly 800,000 displaced people living in Ma'rib, so humanitarian needs were already extremely high.  

Local authorities are supporting them in whatever way possible, while the humanitarian community is working tirelessly to respond to the ongoing displacement crisis.  

“IOM and partners are scaling up our humanitarian aid; however, significant gaps remain. With so many displaced people, it is impossible for partners to meet more than the most urgent needs. Greater humanitarian presence and resources are urgently required,” said IOM’s McCue. 

IOM’s Global Crisis Response Platform provides an overview of IOM’s funding requirements in 2021 and beyond. The Platform is updated regularly.
This press release was updated on 25 February 2021.

For more information, please contact Olivia Headon at IOM Yemen, Tel: +967730552233, Email: