Story: by Abdo Haider/ AFP | 02nd March 2017, 05:30 Hrs
Wrapping their children in plastic sheets to stave off the winter cold, Yemeni families driven out of the historic port of Mokha are struggling to adjust to the harsh life of internal displacement.
“We were doing fine in our own homes, on our land,” says Zahra Aqlan, 55, who fled the Red Sea town in January.
The mother of five chose had no choice but to move to Al-Jarrahi, 100 kilometres (60 miles) up the coast, after she lost her husband when a rocket exploded on their street.
She now faces the daunting task of feeding her children with no access to resources in an impoverished country torn apart by war.
“There is nothing to drink here. Nothing to eat,” she told AFP in Al-Jarrahi. “We’re looking for aid just to keep our children alive.”
Yemen has witnessed increasingly intense fighting between troops loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi and Iran-backed Huthi rebels. Violence including air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition since March 2015 has killed more than 7,500 people and left 19 million in need of humanitarian aid.
In January, fighting intensified along Yemen’s strategic western coastline as loyalists pushed to regain ground seized by the rebels.
The pro-government troops on February 10 took Mokha, once famed as the export hub of coffee grown in the Yemeni highlands, and announced they aimed to take the main Red Sea port of Hodeida next.
Zahra and her children are among an estimated 1,500 families who have been driven out of Mokha since January, seeking refuge further north.
Some have erected tents in a plot of land that appears to be unclaimed in Al-Jarrahi. Many others, however, are sleeping in the open air.
The UN’s refugee (UNHCR) and migration (IOM) agencies on Wednesday said that more than 48,000 people had in recent weeks fled hostilities in Mokha and nearby Dhubab.
UNHCR spokeswoman for Yemen Shabia Mantoo told AFP that Yemeni civilians were “fleeing with nothing but literally the clothes on their backs.
“The whole country is suffering,” Mantoo said. “People move from one place to another because it gets just as bad.”
Despite UN efforts to provide emergency shelter during the winter cold, internally displaced Yemenis continue to struggle. The number of those displaced increases every day with the ongoing fighting around Mokha and the Hodeida coastal areas.