War strands Yemenis in Egypt, separated from their families
CAIRO, Egypt, April 12, 2016 (UNHCR) - Thousands of Yemenis who were in Egypt when war broke out at home a year ago are still unable to return to their families, and are running out of ways to survive without help.
Hoda*, 37, came to Egypt for a routine medical check-up following cancer treatment she received in the country four years ago. She travelled with her mother and two sons, fully expecting to return to Yemen. But then war broke out, stranding them in Egypt and splitting up the family. Her husband and the rest of the family remain trapped in Yemen.
As the situation deteriorated at home, Hoda's husband could no longer send her any money. "I have had to rent an apartment beyond my means in a quiet place," she says.
"When I was here in 2012 I had a bad experience with how people treated my youngest son who is autistic…I had some gold when I arrived which I sold to get by."
She soon found she could no longer afford to buy her son's medicine or put him in a special needs school. As a result, his condition began to deteriorate. She has also been unable to send her older son to school.
UNHCR is helping Hoda with some cash, and her mother receives health assistance. In Yemen Hoda was a homemaker, raising her boys. Now she is trying to put her skills and degree in business administration to use to make extra money for survival. "I try to tailor some clothes, but I have not sold any of them yet," Hoda says. "Life is simple in Yemen, all the neighbours would help each other, so different from here in Cairo."
Hoda is among an estimated 6,000 to 8,000 Yemenis now stranded in Egypt, either because they were in the country when the war erupted in March 2015, or because they have fled here for safety. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has registered 1,375 of them, and is helping where it can.
UNHCR provides cash, medical help, and education assistance to Yemeni refugees, as well as protection and psycho-social support, with support from its partners Caritas and Catholic Relief Services.
So far, more than 100 people have been given cash to help ease their difficulties, and close to 500 have been received medical treatment. A further 141 have been given education grants to continue with schooling in Egypt while they wait to go home.
But as the conflict continues, the prospects of returning remain dim.
"I wish I could go back to Yemen to reunite with my husband and the rest of the family, but I think sometimes that even if things get better from a security aspect, now, there is still no electricity and no running water," Hoda says, worried for her son.
"What would I do with an autistic child there? But here I am suffering alone."
For Hoda, and thousands of others dreaming of reuniting with their loved ones, the only lasting solution to alleviate their suffering is for peace to come to Yemen.
By Marwa Hashem in Cairo, Egypt
*Name has been changed for protection