Human Rights

Al-Hodeidah's displaced face continued hardship

By Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi in Aden

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Internally displaced persons pitch tents in the streets of Sanaa. [Nabil Abdullah al-Tamimi/Al-Mashareq]

The UN and its humanitarian partners have assisted close to one million residents of Yemen's al-Hodeidah province, who have been displaced by the ongoing conflict to areas across the country, according to a recent report.

Over a six-month period, rapid response mechanism (RRM) assistance has been delivered to 996,600 people displaced from al-Hodeidah, the UN Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a January 15th report.

Waves of displacement from al-Hodeidah province have continued since UN efforts to secure a ceasefire between the Yemen government and the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah) fizzed last June.

The displacement has continued even after UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden, which on December 13th announced the two sides had agreed to an immediate ceasefire in al-Hodeidah and the ports of al-Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa.

The Stockholm Agreement calls for the removal of all military manifestations from al-Hodeidah city and a mutual redeployment of forces from al-Hodeidah, Salif and Ras Issa, to agreed upon locations, among other measures.

But the deal has not yet been fully implemented.

Between June 2018 and January 15th, more than a million people were displaced from al-Hodeidah, according to the OCHA report.

Of this number, more than 659,300 people were registered in four provinces: Hajjah, Mahweet, Rima and al-Hodeidah, the report said.

"Commercial food imports in December 2018 declined to the lowest level since the UN started monitoring imports in July 2016," it added.

"Access to humanitarian facilities and people in need remains a challenge," it said. "Humanitarian warehouses, including the Red Sea Mills, where enough food is stored to feed 3.5 million people for a month, remain inaccessible."

Struggles in Sanaa

"We arrived in Sanaa six months ago and were placed in the Abu Bakr al-Siddiq school," said Nader Muqbel, who fled from al-Hodeidah and now serves as a spokesman for the displaced population in that shelter.

Other places in Sanaa also were designated to receive displaced families from al-Hodeidah, he told Al-Mashareq.

Humanitarian organisations provided the new arrivals with food and relief aid, but displaced persons from other areas moved into the camps devoted to internally displaced persons (IDP) from al-Hodeidah, he said.

"The attention given to al-Hodeidah IDPs by those organisations drew other people, including IDPs from other areas and marginalised local residents to move into al-Hodeidah IDP camps in order to receive the provided aid," he said.

"At the start of the new school year, the schools designated to house IDPs were cleared to allow students to return to their classrooms," he said.

Some displaced families received financial assistance to help them with rent payments, but many have not been able to secure accommodation and remain in tents or on the streets, he said.

Displaced from al-Hodeidah, Omar Mohammed now lives with his wife, three children and mother in a tent in western Sanaa, among a cluster of IDP tents.

The tent does not protect them from the cold of winter or the heat of summer but gives them privacy, he told Al-Mashareq.

"Kind benefactors provide us with food and relief aid," Mohammed said, which helps to supplement the modest income he earns washing cars.

Mohammed expressed hope that he and his family would return to al-Hodeidah, "and the ceasefire would become permanent so we can return to our homes".

Displacement continues

The wave of displacement is continuing in both directions, despite the Stockholm Agreement, which has not found a clear path to implementation, said Nadia Ahmed, who is involved in the distribution of aid to al-Hodeidah IDPs in Sanaa.

"The displacement movement is continuing to and from Sanaa, as some of the IDPs have opted to return to al-Hodeidah instead of suffering displacement in Sanaa," she told Al-Mashareq.

Ahmed said she had seen displaced families in Sanaa using cardboard as bedding. Since then, she added, she and her friends have been collecting money and items such as blankets and clothing to distribute to those IDPs.

"The heavy rainfall in Sanaa made life difficult for many IDPs in Sanaa who live on the streets because they have no shelter to go to and cannot afford to pay rent for housing," Ahmed said.

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