Displaced in Yemen… One Man’s Meat is another Man’s Poison

4 min readFeb 5, 2019


A child from a displaced family in a waste dump in the coastal city of Hodeidah (Reuters)

By Yusuf Ajlan

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A man in his forties, Ayub Mohammed is one of hundreds of thousands displaced Yemenis whom the four-year- long civil war between the government troops and Houthis has rendered them homeless, fleeing death to look for livelihoods elsewhere.

Like hundreds of other displaced people, Ayub and his family — a wife and three children — have ended up scavenging in rubbish dumps at an outlying area of the capital, Sanaa, to survive. It is perfectly embodied in this proverb, “One man’s meat is another man’s poison.”

“We are devastated by war. It has brought money and happiness to others at our expense,” says Ayub as he describes how the war has turned his life into hell. He is now living in a ripped tent that barely protects him and his family from rain and cold weather.

According to UN reports, the number of the displaced as a result of the conflict in Yemen has risen to over 3.5 million people, of whom three million are internally displaced and are now living in extremely difficult humanitarian and economic conditions.

The displaced Ayoub stands next to his torn tent north of Sanaa (Al Jazeera)

Ayub and dozens of other families are living in the vicinity of a landfill in Al Jarraf neighborhood north of Sana’a. They dig and lift 95% of their food and daily needs out of the trash. “We have to consume the food we get from there to stay alive,” he told Aljazeera Net painfully.

No organizations exist

Taqiya Mohammed, a displaced woman from Taez, used to burn plastic bags she collects in order to prepare food while two of her children are charged with providing livelihood and getting cooking oil, flour and lentils out of the garbage.

Talking to Aljazeera Net, she says that local and international organizations based in Sana’a shrugged their suffering, but they receive limited assistance from initiatives led by some youth who visit them from time to time.

Many local organizations complain that the Houthi Movement, which controls Sana’a, is tightening the noose around them, barring –according to activist Samah- the former from visiting the displaced camps without permission from the de facto authority in the capital city and only after knowing the financier/s.

Eating bread scraps in a bag they found in a dumpster in Hodeidah (Reuters)

Al Khudry says “two members of our organization were about to be arrested be the Houthis at a displaced camp in Sana’a while we were recently working.”

Early last November, the President of the so-called Supreme Political Council (of the Houthi Movement), Mahdi al-Mashat ordered that no permit be issued to any organization or social components nor any work permits be renewed to already registered organizations, something which will constrict activities of the very ones of them which operate in Houthi-controlled areas.

Statistics obtained by Aljazeera Net from international organizations in Yemen indicate that the Capital Sana’a hosts at least 490,000 displaced people from various provinces since the start of war in March 2015. However other tens of thousands in areas so far not reached by those organizations remain unaccounted for.

Looking for leftovers in Yemen’s Hodeidah waste (Reuters)

Harassment and Trampling

Despite the displaced camp near the landfill is heavily guarded, a number of children were killed after being run over by garbage trucks. Nagi Khalid — a displaced man- said, “We were forced to sign a paper clearing owners of the garbage trucks from any run-over accident involving children.”

As we approached the landfill gate, the guards denied us entrance to take photos of those displaced while on their way searching for food. We were asked to leave the place immediately, and the guards declined to comment on the run-over accident of children.

Um Ahmed says that her little son used to go to the landfill and stay there for a day or two digging legumes and other foodstuffs out of the rubbish. He sells the empty plastic cans he collects at a low price, she added.

Um Ahmed helps her husband and son and sets out on a long walk of about two kilometers daily to bring water. She usually waits for two to three hours just to fill up her bottles, but sometimes she is harassed.

The Aljazeera Net approached the Sana’a office of the Executive Unit of the Displaced and a staff member of it –who refrained from disclosing his name-, told us that they were in no position to know all displaced camps. He added: “If there are displaced in any given place they have to come to our office and we shall send a team to investigate the situation prior to dispatching assistance to them.”

The displaced in Yemen are facing an acute state of insecurity and they have their own essential requirements. They are living an unstable, precarious everyday life, striving to fulfill their most basic needs.

Source: Aljazeera.net




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