Displaced Yemenis face dire conditions after latest violence
Renewed fighting has displaced more than 62,000 people in recent weeks, with many facing malnutrition, disease and inadequate shelter.
BAYT AL FAQIH, Yemen – As the battle for control of the Red Sea port of Mokha on Yemen’s west coast raged around them last month, Amina* and her family knew the time had finally come for them to flee for their lives.
“We faced danger from both the sky and the land. We hid at home for most of the time, but when we were nearly killed and our house damaged by the fighting, we just had to leave,” the 28-year-old mother of three said.
Together with two neighbouring families, Amina, her husband and their children crammed themselves into a vehicle that would take them to safety, splitting the US$180 cost between them. A journey that would normally take two hours lasted four times as long as they had to stick to back roads to avoid the fighting.
“We couldn't take anything with us – no food, clothes or any belongings because there was hardly any space for the people. So we left with nothing,” Amina explained.
They made their way some 150 kilometres north to the town of Bayt al Faqih in the neighbouring Hudaydah governorate, where Amina and her family have been staying in an apartment provided by the local community for the past several weeks.
“We couldn't take anything with us – no food, clothes or any belongings."
“When we arrived in Hudaydah we had nothing, but the community have been so generous. Even though they are also suffering, they gave us a place to stay and helped us out,” Amina said. But despite the help of locals and relief items including mattresses, blankets, sleeping mats, buckets and kitchen sets from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the family’s situation remains precarious.
“Life is too hard. We don't have enough food and water and we are sick. Many people and their children have infections, and fear has made our bodies and minds weak,” Amina said. “I want to go back home, but all the information I have is that home is still not safe. I just want peace for my Yemen.”
Intensified hostilities across western and central Yemen have forced more than 62,000 people from their homes within the last six weeks, including 48,400 from the west coast governorate of Taizz, where Mokha is located, UNHCR spokesman William Spindler told a news briefing in Geneva on Friday (March 10).
“Most of the displaced are in dire need of assistance and have found shelter in communal and public spaces, including schools and health facilities, whilst others are living in unfinished buildings or out in the open,” Spindler told reporters.
“Most of the displaced are in dire need of assistance and have found shelter in communal and public spaces."
A number of those displaced, including many children, have been reported as suffering from malnutrition, Spindler said. Overcrowding and unsanitary conditions in areas of displacement are also leading to outbreaks of diseases.
UNHCR and its partners have responded swiftly to the needs of those displaced from Taizz to Hudaydah and others across the country, providing shelter and emergency relief items which many recipients reported as being the only humanitarian assistance they have so far received.
However, fighting is currently hampering access to more than 35,000 people displaced within Taizz governorate itself, and UNHCR is calling for the resumption of humanitarian access to the area while trying to mobilize a response with all national actors on the ground.
Adnan, 26, first fled Mokha a year ago, but had just returned with his chronically ill wife and young daughter last month when almost immediately fighting drove them from their home once more.
“Even before the current escalation in Taizz we were suffering, but now the situation is unbearable,” he said. “We saw people dying in front of our eyes. Others were injured. So we decided to leave.”
They now find themselves living in a small apartment with six other families, 22 people sharing two rooms between them. “Even though we are struggling here, it is still better than living in danger in Taizz,” Adnan said.
* Name changed for protection reasons.