Dhalae IDPs: The Boundless Struggle for Survival

Yemeni people are facing unimaginable challenges as they continue to endure the devasting impacts of the ongoing conflict
Khadija Khaled
June 23, 2024

Dhalae IDPs: The Boundless Struggle for Survival

Yemeni people are facing unimaginable challenges as they continue to endure the devasting impacts of the ongoing conflict
Khadija Khaled
June 23, 2024

Asaad Musaad, a 40-year-old resident of Dhalae governorate, found himself compelled to flee with his family to Aden, the internationally recognized interim capital of the government. This arduous journey shattered the tranquility of his once peaceful life, which thrived on the bounties of his farm and his role as a community activist. Instead, he was thrust into a world plagued by poverty and uncertainty.

Recalling the initial days of his displacement, Asaad somberly recounts to "Khuyut" the devastating impact it had on his livelihood, further exacerbating the already tragic consequences of being uprooted. "I had no choice but to toil in a bakery and search for a new, more affordable home," he shares. Yet, even these desperate measures proved insufficient to sustain him and his family. In 2022, the landlord abruptly raised the rent to an exorbitant level, surpassing Asaad's limited financial resources. Compounding his struggles, he no longer receives assistance from international relief organizations, which themselves face significant funding crises in Yemen.

Under the pressure of those circumstances, he moved to live with his family in a small one-room house, facing numerous challenges in obtaining daily necessities, electricity, and water. "Now, after five years of displacement, my young children have had to leave school and work in collecting plastic waste to sell for meager amounts, but it helps meet some of our needs."

The war and conflict that have engulfed Yemen since 2015 have unleashed unprecedented waves of displacement, marking a dark chapter in our nation's history. The consequences for the displaced population have been devastating, with far-reaching impacts on the economy, society, public services, and healthcare in the areas they sought refuge. Unemployment rates have skyrocketed, and poverty has spread like wildfire. The suffering endured by those displaced, including those from "Damt" and the Dhalae governorate like myself, remains unresolved. As tears well up in his eyes, he recalls his eldest son saying: "My son completed his high school, but our circumstances didn't allow him to pursue university education. Instead, he joined the frontlines to help us. Sadly, he met his fate in Mareb, just five months before his twentieth birthday." Musaad told Khuyut.

The host communities that receive the displaced have been heavily impacted on all levels. The soaring unemployment rates and the widespread poverty have become the primary contributors to various negative social phenomena. Unfortunately, finding practical solutions to these challenges in the short term seems elusive which calls for comprehensive and long-term strategies to address the underlying causes and bring about sustainable change.

According to a report of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) issued in March 2024, more than four and a half million Yemenis have been displaced, fleeing from areas affected by armed conflict within the country over the past decade. These individuals are seeking security, peace, and a better life, but they face immense challenges in finding shelter and sustainable livelihoods. The humanitarian crisis in Yemen remains one of the greatest challenges facing the international community today. The staggering number of displaced Yemenis underscores the magnitude of the crisis and emphasizes the urgent need for action from the international community. The ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen represents one of the greatest challenges we face today. It demands our immediate attention, resources, and collaborative efforts to alleviate the suffering and provide essential support to those affected.

Negative Social Repercussions 

The area of Damt in Dhalae governorate has indeed been greatly affected by the influx of displaced individuals. The sheer number of people surpasses the region's capacity and strains the resources of relevant authorities and relief organizations. It is unfortunate that many of the displaced individuals still lack proper housing, forcing them to resort to setting up makeshift tents on sidewalks and open spaces. In addition, some are compelled to live in inadequate conditions, occupying unsuitable and dilapidated shops. These challenging circumstances have undoubtedly resulted in negative social repercussions within the community.

Judge Ali Al-Harazi, the prosecutor in the city of Damt, expressed to "Khuyut" that the city has indeed become a sanctuary for numerous displaced individuals from various areas in Dhale governorate and other provinces. "Unfortunately, this influx has brought about several crises, with the emergence of social and criminal issues. It is disheartening to see that the displaced individuals themselves can become both perpetrators and victims, which places a heavy burden on the prosecutor's office and the court. The insufficient number of judges in the courts and members in the prosecutor's office poses a significant challenge in effectively addressing these issues." 

Hussein Al-Musaibali, a dedicated social activist, concurs with the aforementioned assessment. In an interview with "Khuyut," he acknowledges the profound impact on host communities that have generously welcomed and accommodated the displaced individuals. Al-Musaibali highlights the alarming rates of unemployment and widespread poverty, which serve as major catalysts for various negative social phenomena. He recognizes that finding immediate, practical solutions to these pressing issues is a daunting task. Instead, he advocates for comprehensive and transformative approaches that address the underlying causes, rather than superficial remedies.

Government officials, experts, and researchers all share a common understanding and concern about the ongoing war and displacement in Yemen. They anticipate the continued impact on host communities and recognize the challenges posed by the rapid integration of customs, traditions, and ways of life between the displaced and host populations. It is evident that this complex situation requires careful consideration and comprehensive strategies to effectively address the long-term consequences. Thoughtful approaches are needed to ensure the well-being and stability of all affected communities, including initiatives that promote integration, social cohesion, and sustainable development. By fostering dialogue and collaboration among stakeholders, we can work towards creating a positive future for Yemen, one that prioritizes adequate housing, access to essential services, and opportunities for livelihoods.

Mr. Jamal Maajam, an advisor at the Ministry of Culture in the internationally recognized government, shares his perspective with Khuyut. He highlights the significance of Yemen's diverse geography and environment, which play a pivotal role in shaping its rich customs and traditions. The country's linguistic landscape is also incredibly diverse, with a multitude of dialects spoken across different regions.

Nonetheless, the unfortunate consequences of war and displacement have indeed resulted in the uprooting of individuals from their homes, forcing them to leave behind their unique customs, traditions, and cultural heritage. As they enter new societies, they may find themselves in environments that differ from their own. However, over time, a natural process of cultural exchange and adaptation unfolds as they coexist with the host communities for an extended period. Thus, through prolonged interaction, both the displaced individuals and the host communities begin to embrace and adopt certain customs and practices from one another. This organic process of cultural exchange allows for the sharing of knowledge, experiences, and traditions. It fosters a sense of understanding and mutual respect among diverse groups, promoting social cohesion and integration.

Moreover, Aziz Othman, a researcher at the Social Development Fund, agrees with this perspective and further elaborates on the challenges faced by displaced individuals. He emphasizes that when people are forced to leave their homes, they often do so in desperate circumstances, leaving behind their lands, livelihoods, and everything they hold dear. Besides, the areas where they seek refuge, which are also affected by the war, may not have been adequately prepared to accommodate the influx of displaced individuals.

Consequently, these areas are under immense pressure, leading to significant strain on their resources and infrastructure. As a result, the already limited availability of basic services, such as water and electricity, further deteriorates, making it challenging for both the displaced individuals and the host communities to access these essential amenities. Additionally, the sudden influx of population gives rise to the formation of informal settlements, where people are forced to live in substandard conditions. The absence of proper waste management systems also contributes to the accumulation of waste, exacerbating the challenges faced in these areas.

Aziz Othman believes that addressing these challenges requires immediate attention and comprehensive interventions. It is crucial to provide support and resources to improve basic services, infrastructure, and living conditions in these areas. This includes investing in sustainable solutions for water and electricity supply, waste management, and promoting inclusive and harmonious community development. Collaborative efforts between the government, relevant institutions, and the international community are essential to ensure that both displaced individuals and host communities can rebuild their lives and create a better future.

Decline of the Healthcare Sector

Dr. Saleh Hamoud, the Director of the Health Office in Al-Dhalea Governorate, provides insight into the healthcare challenges faced in the region, as discussed with "Khuyut." He highlights that the province is equipped with only one hospital, the Al-Nasr Governmental Hospital. However, the population has surpassed its capacity, and the displacement of people remains a major contributing factor to this crisis.

In the midst of the ongoing war in Yemen, the number of displaced individuals has significantly risen, particularly in the initial three years. Al-Dhalea Governorate has emerged as a destination for many of these displaced individuals, with a majority being African migrants. They have sought refuge in camps situated in the Sahda area. Dr. Hamoud confirms that this influx of displaced individuals has resulted in the classification of Al-Dhalea as a disaster-stricken governorate, as it grapples with the far-reaching consequences of war and displacement.

Dr. Saleh emphasizes that displaced individuals are given priority in terms of receiving medical treatment and accessing specialized doctors. This prioritization has resulted in a lack of healthcare services for many original residents of the province. As a consequence, some individuals have had to seek medical care in other cities like Aden. Dr. Saleh further explains that pregnant women, who previously visited the hospital for healthcare services, are now unable to do so due to overcrowding, a shortage of specialized medical staff, and negligence. This unfortunate situation has forced them to wait until the time of delivery, leading to significant complications and problems.

Further, Dr. Saleh points out that the hospital's infrastructure is inadequate and ill-equipped to cope with the increasing number of patients. Initially constructed in 1966 to cater to the needs of Al-Dhalea city, the hospital later expanded to encompass eight additional districts. However, the population has significantly multiplied over the past five decades without any corresponding expansion or improvement in the hospital's facilities. This lack of infrastructure development has contributed to the challenges faced in providing quality healthcare services to the growing population in the governorate.

Scarcity of housing is one of the main issues caused by displacement. Rent prices have skyrocketed to an extent that residents consider them exorbitant, and the value of properties has increased, making it difficult for many to afford. The consequences have also affected the education sector, which has significantly deteriorated in war-affected areas throughout Yemen, including the communities hosting displaced individuals. 

In the same context, the environmental activist, Safaa Abdullah, affirms to "Khuyut" that thousands of displaced individuals are living in makeshift toilets and plastic tents, exposed to weather changes and diseases. She emphasizes, "In addition to the limited availability of food and the contamination of drinking water, which has created an environment conducive to the spread of diseases and their impact on the surrounding areas. This situation is catastrophic and will require many years to address." 

A pressing educational problem

Furthermore, the consequences have also affected the education sector, which has significantly deteriorated in war-affected areas throughout Yemen, including the communities hosting displaced individuals. Regarding the educational reality after waves of displacement, Mohammed Al-Qudami, Deputy Director of Teacher Affairs at the Ministry of Education in Sana'a, spoke to "Khuyut." He mentioned that there are three forms of displaced students, some of whom have integrated into schools and have been able to receive education similar to their peers in the host community.

On her part, Shadia Al-Raqimi, the director of Asmaa Girls School in Al-Dhalea Governorate, tells "Khuyut" that her school was already facing a shortage of school furniture before the war. The problem worsened after accepting displaced students following the outbreak of the war. She adds, "This dilemma continues because many displaced girls have arrived during the past ten years of the education system, and we must find a place for them in the school."

Additionally, she mentions that the number of students in her school is 1630, with an average of 150 students per classroom, while the maximum capacity is only 50 students. She explains, "This puts significant pressure on both the students and the teachers."

Furthermore, she highlights the multiple needs of her school, saying, "We are in desperate need of additional classrooms, furniture, and textbooks. Additionally, we require an educational staff to address the shortage in the school. Most of the primary and secondary teachers are contract-based, and with the suspension of salaries, some teachers have found replacements from high school graduates, while others have left to other cities or even outside the country in search of livelihood opportunities."

Sever Housing Crisis

The displacement crisis in Yemen has created a severe housing crisis. The scarcity of housing is the primary problem caused by displacement, as rental prices have skyrocketed to an extent that residents consider them exorbitant compared to the value of properties. Essam Al-Mouti, a real estate office owner in Dhamar, mentions that the rent for a property that used to be 15,000 Yemeni riyals ($54 USD) before the war in 2015 has now increased to around 70,000 Yemeni riyals ($278 USD). This significant increase can be attributed to several factors. Firstly, salaries were being paid to employees, which led to an increase in people's purchasing power. Additionally, the Yemeni currency maintained its value, which contributed to the rise in rental prices. It is a challenging situation for many residents who find the current rental rates to be excessively high compared to the property's actual value.

Essam Al-Mouti also highlights that the housing problem persists even for previous tenants, as landlords continue to raise rents annually, disregarding official regulations that prohibit such increases. He further explains that landlords often create issues with tenants in order to compel them to leave, enabling them to accommodate new tenants who are willing to pay the higher demanded rent.

In his interview with the Khuyut platform, Saleh Al-Saadi, a property owner who invests in rentals, responds to the concerns raised by Essam Al-Mouti. He acknowledges that the process of construction entails significant costs and effort, and he believes that property owners should receive reasonable compensation for their investments. Additionally, he points out that there are numerous obligations and expenses that property owners need to cover, which require financial resources.

Saleh Al-Saadi emphasizes that when it comes to renting his property, he expects potential tenants to pay the rental amount that he has determined. This indicates that he believes the rental price should align with the value he places on his property.

Safaa Abdullah, a social activist, confirms to "Khuyut" that there are housing challenges in some areas of Dhalae. She points out that this situation did not exist before the war and the arrival of displaced people. She states, "There used to be an abundance of housing units and affordable rental prices. However, overall, Yemen is experiencing the wide-ranging consequences of war and conflict, affecting all aspects of life and extending beyond the boundaries of displacement and its impact on both the displaced and host communities."

In conclusion, Addressing the needs of the displaced population requires a comprehensive approach. It involves not only ensuring access to safe and adequate shelter but also providing opportunities for sustainable livelihoods. This includes initiatives focused on education, healthcare, and economic empowerment, which are crucial for the long-term well-being and stability of the affected communities. Moreover, it is crucial for the international community to acknowledge the gravity of the situation and intensify their efforts to support Yemen and its people. Adequate funding and resources must be allocated to humanitarian organizations, enabling them to provide vital assistance to those in need. Additionally, long-term solutions, such as sustainable livelihood programs and initiatives to address affordable housing, must be prioritized to alleviate the suffering of displaced individuals.

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