Think of winter and the image of thick blankets of snow covering the streets and freezing temperatures come to mind. For most of us, we dread leaving our homes and prefer to stay inside by our fireplaces with a steaming cup of hot chocolate in our hands. But for many Yemeni refugees this winter, their realities will be much direr.
Forced from their homes because of the outbreak of violence in their country, these refugees have little more than the clothes on their back. In January of 2018, more than 32,000 refugees were displaced by violence. Those numbers have continued to grow throughout the year.
What will happen to these refugees? Let’s take a look at some of the issues these Yemenis will face as they head deeper into frigid winter.
Surviving Winter Without A Home
The escalating civil war in Yemen is displacing thousands of refugees every month. They have had their homes destroyed, and often have to resort to using caves as shelter. But these makeshift homes do little to protect them from the harsh elements.
These families usually have small children, and even with the best efforts of humanitarian groups, they are unable to get access to enough food and water to sustain them. Because of this, their bodies are not strong enough to withstand the harsh temperatures that winter will bring.
In the countries that many of these refugees are fleeing to, temperatures can fall to below freezing point. Coupled with little access to clean water and food, it is easy to see why hundreds of Yemenis die every few weeks from these harsh conditions.
The Yemeni Civil War is stretching into its fourth year. Even with help from the UN in resettling these war-stricken people, many of them have to resort to living outside in the elements and in tents in refugee camps. Surviving winter without a home is a life-threatening challenge for these displaced Yemenis.
What’s more is that in addition to displacement, thousands of Yemenis have been displaced for years which presents even more challenges. More than two million Yemenis are currently refugees, as recorded by the UN in January of this year. This means that this refugee community is on the brink of famine.
The Stark Reality for Displaced Refugees
The kind of discomfort that these refugees face far surpasses the kind we feel when we forget to eat lunch or leave the house with fewer clothes than we’ll need to stay warm that day. In September of 2018, the UN issued a warning that the millions of Yemeni refugees are on the brink of famine. Put another way, millions of Yemeni refugees are on slowly dying because they do not have enough to eat. Such intense starvation coupled with the harsh temperatures are essentially a death sentence for these adults and children, who left their homes to survive.
In an interview published by Al Jazeera, reporter Andrew Simmons said after seeing a dangerously malnourished little girl, “I could count the ribs on her chest.” There are very few clinics available to these refugees, so they are unable to get the treatment they need.
This begs the question of why we haven’t heard more about the struggle that these Yemeni refugees have to endure?
Yemeni refugees in the Jordanian city of Amman only have access to one charitable health center. Even if they arrive at dawn, it can take as much as seven hours to see a nurse. For people already in a dire situation, this is more than agonizing.
Additionally, Yemeni children in Jordan have no access to schooling. Many of these children are turned away by school administrators. The future of Yemeni children is at risk.
The Struggle to Survive for Yemeni Refugees
For the Yemeni refugees in at least one country, they face public derision and open discrimination by the people who live in the countries that they have settled in. Contrary to the belief that refugees just want to mooch off of the resources of the country they settle in, the Yemeni refugees do not want cash handouts or aid.
Instead, they just want an opportunity to provide for themselves. Many of them had to leave their jobs and businesses after the outbreak of war in their countries, so it only makes sense that they would want to become productive members of the society they find themselves in. One refugee who was interviewed by The National, a newspaper in Abu Dhabi had this to say, “I have a degree in law and I am desperate to mop floors and pick up trash. But each time they turn me away and deny my permit.”
Yemeni refugees find themselves caught between a “rock and a hard place.” They were forced from their homes because of violence that would kill them, and they’ve lost everything they own. After enduring grueling conditions and making it to another country, they find themselves unwanted and disliked by the people of the country.
Clearly, the upcoming winter will be a deadly one for the Yemeni refugees. Those who survive will have to face inhuman conditions and get by on very small rations of food.