Supporting Survivors of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Yemen

Supporting Survivors of Sexual Exploitation and Abuse in Yemen


Aisha holds her cooing one year old son at the IOM Migration Response Centre Health facility in Aden Yemen (Eva Sibanda/IOM 2023)

In Aden, Yemen, IOM supported Migrant Response Points (MRP) in providing short-term and emergency services for migrants. Doctors, nurses and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) specialists provide primary care for migrants and upon consultation migrants can be referred to hospitals for secondary care.  

Aisha Mohammed*, is a 20-year-old migrant from Ethiopia who finds herself in need of medical attention. She is at the Migrant Response Point (MRP) in Aden for a scheduled appointment to receive some prenatal support because Aisha is five months pregnant. 

Aisha* came to the consultation with her young son, Sharif Mohammed* who she proudly shares is two years old. Sharif was born during the Ramadan season one year ago.  

Aisha’s journey was long, she arrived in Aden two years ago, from Debarq in Northern Ethiopia. Aisha travelled with a large group of people, facilitated all the way by smugglers.  

“We came in one boat (185 people) from Bosaso, the smuggler was known from my village (Didab). We were 85 women and 100 men in the group.” 

Aisha* landed at the coast in the Southern region of Yemen, from Bosaso and was immediately transported by the smuggler-facilitated vehicle to Ataq in the North. There she was detained by the smugglers and spent a year with very limited food and water.  

Smugglers transported her directly from the boat to Ataq where she was held for a year. She was forcibly detained, beaten and sexually abused by the smugglers when in detention in Ataq. 

She shared that the smugglers forced her to call her family back home to pay money for her release. Eventually, her family managed to pay 80,000 Birr (equivalent to USD 1,500) to release her. 

Aisha shared about her sexual violence experiences in the smugglers den. 

 “A man who was among the smugglers in Ataq raped me, this is how I fell pregnant with Sharif.”  

Her child Sharif* is two years old. 

While in detention, she heard from other migrants among her about the support that IOM gives to migrants. So, once released, she came straight to Aden looking for IOM and hoping to return home. 

Caressing her ring finger that dons a simple black band, Aisha shared that she was married but now does not know where her husband is. Of Oromo origins like her, she met her husband once she was released from detention and finally arrived in Aden, Yemen. He was part of the wider migrant community.  

"He was not part of my group that moved, we met after I crossed from Somalia.” 

Aisha was pregnant when she met her husband and they married in Aden, Yemen. 

“My family in Ethiopia don’t know that Sharif is not my husband’s baby, but my husband knows. I told him I was harassed.” 

Safely in Aden, Aisha found cheap accommodation with her husband near the IOM Migrant Response Point in Aden in an apartment with a group of families. She was advised by fellow migrants about the opportunity to return home that is offered by IOM. 

“The rent is cheap, and we are four families who are sharing four rooms. I was there with my husband and Sharif.”  

Her husband has since left her, in December 2022. She shared: “It has been four months since I last saw him. He left looking for work, he left without a word.” 

Aisha has given up hope of hearing from her husband and is deciding to take her young son home, and travel while she still is able, using the IOM provided VHR flight. Aisha has been registered and planning to travel but some documents are outstanding, from Ethiopian authorities. Aisha is here for an appointment because she is five months pregnant, and she is seeking prenatal services at the MRP. 

“After eight months of pregnancy I know I can’t travel, IOM Protection team have advised me to not travel after eight months. I am not sure, but I hope that I can travel soon.” 

Aisha shared her hope for the future and the faith that has gotten her through her traumatic experiences: “My faith is very strong. I am thinking about how to raise my children.” IOM is supporting her to return home to Ethiopia and her family, using the Voluntary Humanitarian Return flight.   

“I have no other choice; this is my baby, and he comes from me. I will fight for my baby and my family will have to accept this.” 


The Migrant Response Points provide immediate primary care for migrants. Following consultations and assessment of needs they can be referred to Community Based Care Centres for extreme protection needs. IOM’s humanitarian assistance and protection services in response to the needs of the returnees are aligned with the Regional Migrant Response Plan (MRP) for the Horn of Africa and Yemen, 2023. The MRP aims to address the needs of migrants in vulnerable situations and host communities in countries situated along the Eastern Migratory Route, located between the Horn of Africa and Yemen.  


*Name has been changed due to sensitivities and protection purposes. 


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