Tales of displaced Yemenis: Two camps, same tragedy

Khokha, Yemen: For many families in Yemen, the war has not only stripped them of their livelihoods, homes and belongings but something far more valuable: their dignity.
“It was humiliating, and now that we are here in this refugee camp, it is even more humiliating,” said Ali Mohammed Mustbani in a makeshift tent, his eyes sunken and posture stooped.
Mustbani fled with his wife and six children from their hometown in northwestern Hajja province to the Al Khudeish camp in the same governorate after heavy air strikes.
They are among the more than two million people displaced by a conflict between the government, backed by a military coalition, and Ansar Allah fighters. “Our situation has gone from bad to worse, and we have not received any assistance,” he said.
Food is scarce in Al Khudeish, where children — some barefoot — roam and struggle to occupy themselves. A little girl combs her younger sister’s hair, while another young girl cares for a baby.
What little food the camp residents can get their hands on is cooked or baked in a pit.
On the floor, a young girl cuts up okra with the edge of a metal cup to mix with mallow, a popular salad green that grows wild in Yemen.
Life in the Al Khudeish camp is not easy.Yehya Kaloum’s family sits on the floor of a tent, in silence.
They have lost several family members, who were among dozens killed in an air strike in March 2015 at the Al Mazrak camp for the displaced, also in Hajja province.
Kaloum’s family moved repeatedly to escape air strikes, before eventually reaching this camp.
“We fled on foot with only the clothes on our backs,” he said. “We are suffering. We have no water, we have no food, and we don’t have health facilities to take care of the children”.
About 300 kilometres south of Hajja, Yemenis in a camp in Khokha, Hodeida province, have fled a different threat. But they face the same day-to-day struggles as those in Al Khudeish.
“We left because of the fierce… shelling by the rebels both at night and during the day,” Mohammed Ghaleb said.
He said Ansar Allah snipers were dispersed throughout his hometown of Hays, some 30 kilometres from Khokha, which is itself around 100 kilometres south of the Red Sea port city of Hodeida.
The shelling forced many to flee Hays.
Neighbourhoods there lie abandoned, and bullet-marked shops have closed their doors.
The warring sides reached a truce accord for Hodeida province during talks in Sweden this month, but the hard-won ceasefire has been followed by repeated skirmishes.
Mohammed Saleh Oseili and his extended family of more than 100 people left Hays almost a year ago.
He used to be a truck driver but is now jobless.
“I have lost my licence, I have lost my identity card,” Oseili said. “We saw people killed by the Ansar Allah missiles, snipers were above us (on rooftops) everywhere — we preferred to leave.”
Much like those in Al Khudeish, Oseili’s family in Khokha do not know where their next meal is coming from.
Ishraq Mohammed Saleh, who likewise fled Hays to Khokha, urged humanitarian agencies to better care for the displaced. — AFP