TAIZZ, Yemen, 24 March 2016 (UNHCR)* – Porter Abduh Kaid Farhan was taking an afternoon walk through the battle-torn Yemeni city of Taizz last November when a shell struck and fatally injured him.
Rushed to the hospital, he died later that day, leaving behind a grieving family, already struggling to get by in a city straddling the frontline of Yemen’s now year-old conflict.
“He was not just my uncle but also my dearest friend. His death has left me with such sorrow,” says his nephew Ali, a porter himself, who like many Yemenis caught up in the war is facing ever-greater hardship.
Since Abduh’s death in November, the family of a mother, father, five sisters and two brothers has faced a deepening struggle to survive.
“I very much worry about what is to come – can this end?” Ali asks, clasping the hand of his wife Um Ahmed. “Will we get our lives back, and what future can I give my children?”
He and his family are far from alone. Since the escalation in the conflict in Yemen on March 26 last year, some 21.2 million people – or 82 per cent of a population of over 26 million – require some form of protection or humanitarian assistance.
The inhabitants of much of Taizz, Yemen’s third largest city with a population of 600,000, have been caught up in some of the most intense fighting in the ongoing conflict. Residents have been deprived of humanitarian aid for up to nine months as a result of a blockade of its main access routes.
Like Ali and his family, they have had to contend with a lack of access to healthcare and clean water, as well as shortages of fuel, cooking gas and critical drugs. Meanwhile, the cost of increasingly scarce food supplies have become exorbitantly expensive as the conflict draws on.
“People are dying of hunger and children are living in fear in this war, even if they still have shelter,” said Ali, who finds occasional work loading and unloading trucks. “At times we have to go out desperately looking for any food available to feed the family. If we survive one day, it is hard to survive the next.”
In response UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on all parties to the conflict to allow humanitarian access, especially to the hardest hit areas like Taizz, where most of the internally displaced and other conflict-affected communities are located.
“Yemen is facing an unprecedented and ever-deepening humanitarian crisis, and the needs of the displaced and conflict-affected communities must be addressed,” stressed Johannes van der Klaauw, UNHCR’s representative in Yemen.
Despite obstacles, UNHCR managed last month to deliver blankets, mattresses, and other emergency relief aid to 1,000 war-hit families largely isolated by months of intense fighting in three locations in the embattled centre of Taizz: Al Qahirah, Salh and Al Mudhaffar districts.
UNHCR has also taken advantage to new access since key roads into Taizz reopened since March 11, and has dispatched badly needed emergency relief items from Aden for 1,000 families in Mashra’a Wa Hadnan and Sabir Al Mawadim districts, immediately south of Taizz’s embattled city centre.
For Ali, Um Ahmed and their family, their hope is for an end to a year of bitter war that has driven 173,000 individuals to flee Yemen, and brought sorrow and hardship to millions who stayed behind.
“We hope and pray for peace,” he said. “That we can move around freely and without fear.”
Reporting by Mohammed Al Hasani in Taizz, writing by Teddy Leposky in Sana’a, Yemen
2016 Human Wrongs Watch