Citizens describe to Oxfam their lives amid violence, disease, and lack of food.
Conflict in Yemen is creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and civilians are bearing the cost of the violence, disease, and near-famine conditions in the country. Fighting has forced three million people from their homes.
One of them is Ibrahim, who is living temporarily in the north western Hajjah Governorate with his wife and four small children. He says they fled their home in Haradh district when the conflict started. “We were happy,” he says of their life before the war. “We had our own homes and land. We used to have our own work and farms. We had our livestock and daily work; we were fine. When the war started, we lost all our properties. We left our money, land, and houses behind us… Today we are displaced with no jobs.”
Ibrahim and his family are surviving with a little help in the form of cash from Oxfam, which he uses to buy food and medicine to help his children. He says his children are too scared of airstrikes and shelling to go to school.
They have good reason to be concerned about airstrikes. A 65-year-old man named Qashwi interviewed by Oxfam says his son died in an airstrike on his way back from working at a nearby market. “He went out but never came back... After the airstrike, he was torn apart, and we collected his body parts from everywhere and we buried him.”
Oxfam estimates that between 2015 and August 2018 there have been 17,160 civilian casualties in fighting: 6,660 dead and 10,500 injured. Airstrikes account for the majority of civilian casualties in Yemen, though Yemenis also suffer greatly from shelling, the deployment of landmines, and other facets of the violence.
Cholera a threat
Another threat to innocent people in Yemen is a serious and fast-moving cholera epidemic. Since April 2017, the World Health Organization estimates there have been 1.2 million suspected cholera cases and 2,515 deaths from the disease. Ibrahim’s son Muhammed is one of the suspected cases—he came home vomiting one day, Ibrahim says. “I didn’t know with what he was affected, and it was only two hours before he passed away. May his soul rest in peace.”
For many people, lack of work and no money to buy food is also deadly, as a prolonged financial crisis in Yemen is sending food prices sky high. Poor nutrition make many more susceptible to preventable diseases—and children in particular are vulnerable. Among Yemen’s 29.3 million population, 75 percent (22.2 million) are in need of humanitarian assistance and 60 percent (nearly 18 million) are suffering from food insecurity and malnutrition.
One 30-year-old woman displaced by the conflict who was interviewed by Oxfam says she is earning money by cleaning homes and selling firewood, but can’t find enough money to buy more than tea and bread for her four children. She is concerned about her youngest son, just 13 months. “Doctors told me that my son has reduced growth for his age,” she says. “He can't stand at all.” If her children fall ill, she says there is little she can do. “I never take them to the hospital, I can't pay for medication. I stay beside them until they recover themselves.”
In addition to providing cash to people displaced by conflict to help them buy food and pay for medical expenses, Oxfam is also providing
- Clean water, and hygiene items like soap, proper latrines, and training on how to avoid cholera and other water-borne diseases. Oxfam is helping repair water systems and trucking water to help displaced people and other at-risk communities.
- Job training and other support to help people make a decent living: Oxfam is helping people with agricultural inputs and assistance for entrepreneurs to start small businesses sewing and selling clothing and opening small shops.
Advocating for peace
Oxfam is calling for a ceasefire, negotiations to end the conflict, respect for international humanitarian law, and unrestricted imports so that Yemenis can access food, fuel, and other humanitarian aid.
Oxfam wants to see women represented in the political talks and, following a ceasefire, for the parties to work together to support Yemen’s government institutions and economy.
“Yemenis feel utterly invisible to the United States and other governments that have decided to put their ties to Saudi Arabia ahead of solving the world’s largest humanitarian crisis,” says Scott Paul, Oxfam’s senior humanitarian policy advisor in the US, where Oxfam has called for the US government to end arms sales and other support fueling the conflict in Yemen. “The US government says it wants peace, but it can’t be a peace broker and an arms broker at the same time.”