UNHCR brings relief to desperate Yemenis displaced by war
MOKHA, Yemen – Driven from her home by fighting, 80-year-old Yemeni grandmother Maryam is currently living in the open with her family of 10 in the port city of Mokha on the Red Sea coast.
“We left our homes about two months ago when the fighting started, and we have been on the move since then,” she told staff with UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency. “It is very hard to settle anywhere because of the conflict. Now we have no food and we live on the street.”
Thousands of displaced Yemenis like Maryam are currently struggling to survive without access to adequate water, sanitation or shelter in Mokha, where fighting between combatants in the country’s two-year conflict has raged since late January.
This week UNHCR succeeded in delivering life-saving aid to the area, following weeks of intense negotiations for access to Taizz governorate due to the heavy fighting. Some 3,400 people in Mokha affected by the conflict were given essentials including mattresses, blankets, kitchen sets and wash buckets.
Field staff reported that many of the displaced were living in desperate conditions lacking basic sanitation, and sharing limited resources with host communities, UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh told a news briefing in Geneva today.
“Families are living out in the open with only trees for shelter, and many said this week was the first time they had received humanitarian assistance other than food,” Saltmarsh told reporters at the Palais des Nations.
“It is very hard to settle anywhere because of the conflict. Now we have no food and we live on the street.”
Two years since the start of the conflict, there are 2 million people displaced across the country, with a further 1 million having returned to their homes but still requiring humanitarian assistance. Worryingly, 84 per cent of those forced from their homes have now been displaced for more than a year.
Western Taizz governorate has been a flashpoint in the conflict over the past two months, with 48,000 people displaced from the area in the last six weeks. As well as Mokha, UNHCR has negotiated access to six other districts within Taizz, and will reach more than 42,000 individuals with emergency assistance in the coming weeks in Dhubab, Al Wazi’iyah, Mawza, Al Ma’afer, Maqbanah and Mawiyah.
Despite new and prolonged waves of displacement in Yemen, humanitarian agencies including UNHCR remain massively underfunded. UNHCR’s financial appeal to respond to urgent humanitarian needs in Yemen is currently only 10 per cent funded.
Tamer, a six-year-old boy who was displaced from Mokha to a nearby village with his family, summed up the bleak situation facing so many in Yemen. “We left our home 10 days ago because of the fighting. Now we live under a tree in the village.”