Australian Shabia Mantoo has spent the past year working on UNHCR’s humanitarian response to the crisis in Yemen. She explains what it’s like to work on the ground in a conflict zone.

Every day Shabia Mantoo sees first-hand the impact of conflict on the people of Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Middle East.

Born in Albury in New South Wales, the qualified lawyer left corporate roles in London and Dubai to join the humanitarian sector. She is currently a spokesperson for UNHCR and has been working in response to the Yemen crisis since June 2016.

As the country enters its third year of conflict and teeters on the brink of famine, Shabia reflected on the scale of the crisis: “Almost everyone in Yemen has been affected by the conflict in some way and the travesty is that the suffering, as catastrophic as it is, remains ignored.”

With 2 million Yemenis internally displaced, there is an overwhelming need for basic assistance. UNHCR is on the ground in all areas affected by the conflict, providing displaced people with emergency shelter, food, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene.
From Albury to Yemen: A UNHCR fieldworker’s story

Two million people across Yemen are displaced and in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Australian Shabia Mantoo is working with UNHCR on the ground to reach those affected by the crisis. 

From Albury to Yemen: A UNHCR fieldworker’s story

Alawiya Mohammed Maree is over 100 years old. She has lived in an unused building since her family were displaced when a bomb destroyed their home.

That is part of the reason why Shabia’s role as spokesperson and public information officer is so vital. Yemen is considered a ‘forgotten emergency’ – despite being one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, it receives very little coverage or funding.

In her day-to-day work, Shabia reports on the human face of the crisis. This includes displaced and unaccompanied children, people injured by the conflict, damaged buildings, and the families who live in the ruins. But she also has the opportunity to meet many people who have been helped by UNHCR. They now have safe shelter and access to food, clean water and medical care.

Despite spending long periods away from family and friends, Shabia says it is incredibly rewarding to be part of the UNHCR’s efforts to save lives and alleviate suffering for the people of Yemen.

“At the end of the day, whether in Sana’a or in Sydney, people are just people and most of us yearn for the same things in life – peace, security, happiness and prosperity. Nobody chooses to be a refugee or a victim of conflict.”


Shabia urges people not to feel powerless. “Yemen is so far away but know that your contribution will impact a life for the better. Whether it’s an emergency shelter kit or vital household assistance for a displaced family, what you do as an individual makes a world of difference.”

The Yemen emergency has received less than 45 per cent of the funding it needs. Yemeni families desperately need emergency food, water, medical care and shelter.

Please help UNHCR deliver supplies to these people in crisis by making a donation today.



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