Yemen conflict one year on: Nowhere to hide

A boy waits in line for water. He begs for food and is eating bread he got from a nearby bakery.
A boy waits in line for water. He begs for food and is eating bread he got from a nearby bakery.

A year of intense conflict has created one of the world’s biggest humanitarian emergencies and risks pushing millions into famine. People are caught between reckless bombing from the sky and indiscriminate shelling on the ground, with nowhere to hide.

An Oxfam food survey of 250 people in north-west Yemen in February 2016 found that almost two thirds of families rely on credit to buy food. But as so few people are able to pay back their debt, lenders are increasingly unwilling to provide loans to poor families. All the evidence shows that the poorest people do not have the ability to withstand this crisis for much longer – all those Oxfam surveyed said they spend more per month than they are able to earn.

Read some of their stories:

Jamal and Badria

Jamal Mahyob, 27, lives with his wife Badria, 26, and their two children Mohammed, 4, and Kareem, 1, in a small tent in a camp in Al-Quba village.

Jamal Mahyob, 27, lives with his wife Badria, 26, and their two children Mohammed, 4, and Kareem, 1, in a small tent in a camp in Al-Quba village.

"Nobody can feel what it means to be a displaced person but those who have lived away and were forced to leave their houses in search of safety. I lost my job because my employer couldn’t afford to pay salaries and, eventually, he shut down his store," Jamal said.

Badria added: "We are facing many obstacles and problems due to the conflict. On rainy days, we are forced to stay inside the tent all day because rainwater gathers around the tent and we feel so cold."

Badria is worried for her children’s health during the cold nights and sometimes sleeps without blankets to keep her children warm. "Sometimes my husband doesn't find work and returns home empty handed. When our neighbor in the tent next to us hears our discussion, he gives me some bread to give to my children," she said.

Ahmed No'man

Ahmed No'man, a 35-year-old teacher, lives with his wife and four children in one room after fleeing their home in Taiz city.

Ahmed No'man, a 35-year-old teacher, lives with his wife and four children in one room after fleeing their home in Taiz city.

"My family and I have been living in this room for almost a year because of the war. I used to get a full salary at the beginning, but a few months later, I only received YR15000 ($70) out of my monthly salary. This has greatly affected us because we no longer have enough money to meet our needs," said Ahmed.

"We are going through very difficult and unbearable days but the villagers are good people. They give us everything and also give us food on some days."

"The countryside isn't like cities. Food may disappear from markets in the countryside, which puts an extra burden on citizens living in rural areas. Additionally, the village is located away from the central market and the way is rugged, so we pay more money for transportation, in addition to the actual price."

"Water scarcity is also a major problem. We had a rural water supply network but it broke down with the passage of time. We continued to suffer until Oxfam intervened and rehabilitated the network. This has helped significantly and eased suffering," he said.

Faedah Saeed

Faedah Saeed, 35, fled with her four kids from Taiz city to Al-Mendhara Village a year ago due to the conflict in Yemen.
Faedah Saeed, 35, fled with her four kids from Taiz city to Al-Mendhara Village a year ago due to the conflict. Her husband used to work in a car maintenance workshop.

"The situation is unbearable. We have been displaced for a year due to the conflict. My husband could not stand the idea of being helpless and decided to return to Taiz city to look for work but I haven't heard anything about him for about two months. I don't know whether he is dead or alive," said Faedah with tears rolling down her cheeks.

"I do not know what happened to my husband and also have no idea what to do. Throughout this period, we have been relying on aids provided from villagers and Oxfam," she said.

Faedah suffers from hemolytic anemia and needs YR10.000 ($46.55) per months to buy medicine. "If I had money, I would buy wheat to feed my children rather than buying medicine," she added.
Despite her poor health condition, Faedah walks for 90 minutes three times a day to bring water from a remote well.

"I hope my kids will lead a secure and easy life. I don't know how long I will live because of my illness, so I keep thinking about my four kids and do my best to be strong for their sake." Oxfam provided Faedah with a hygiene kit, as well as food vouchers every month between December 2015 and March 2016 so she can buy food in the local market.

Act now

Oxfam has reached more than 913,000 people with clean water, food vouchers, hygiene kits and other essential aid in the north and south of Yemen since March 2015.

We are calling for all land, sea and air routes to Yemen to remain open to allow the regular and consistent flow of commercial supplies of food, fuel and medicines in to the country to alleviate the humanitarian crisis.

Only peace will end the crisis. All parties to the conflict should agree to an immediate ceasefire and urgently resume peace talks, ensuring all sections of society, including women, are involved.  

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