Yemen: UNHCR warns of dangers for women and children

The United Nations’ Refugee Agency releases a statement on Yemen, warning that as the humanitarian crisis continues, women and children make up three quarters of the four million people forced from their homes, putting them at greater risk.

By Vatican News staff writer

A new statement released by the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Yemen describes the struggle that women and children face in the crisis described as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.

The conflict in Yemen is entering its seventh year and millions of people face similar struggles. UNHCR describes this by telling the stories of a few of these people.

Women are often left widowed by the fighting, and with their houses destroyed. Children are often left orphaned, homeless and without access to formal education. 

The violence in these seven years has killed more than 2,900 civilians and damaged more than 6,600 homes, 33 schools and 43 roads and bridges. Hudaydah one of the worst affected cities in Yemen during the six-year conflict.

Nabiha

One of the stories told in the UNHCR statement is that of Nabiha from Hudaydah who has received aid to buy land on which she is now building her house, brick by brick, so as to put a roof over her children’s head.

“Widowed in the early days of the conflict and displaced several times by the fighting, the mother of three is building a house that she hopes will restore the stability her family lost.

Originally from Al-Mokha, a town 185 kilometres along the coast famous for its coffee trade, Nabiha fled to Hudaydah with her mother, brother, daughter and two sons in 2015 after her husband was killed in an explosion while at work”.

Nabiha’s desperate struggles have become a familiar experience for millions of people caught up in the crisis. 

Since 2015, more than 20,000 civilian deaths and injuries have been recorded, and more than 4 million people have been forced to flee within the country’s borders. Three-quarters of displaced Yemenis are women and children, while one in four displaced families is headed by women like Nabiha.

Nabiha earns the equivalent of 2-4 US dollars each day, an amount which is rarely enough to cover daily expenses and she often finds herself skipping meals in order to be able to feed her children.

The UNHCR statement warns that in a patriarchal society like Yemen, where socio-cultural norms and practices shape women’s lives, the conflict has increased the risk of exploitation and abuse.

The Pope’s closeness to Yemen

Pope Francis has often expressed his closeness to the people of Yemen, praying for peace in the nation. In particular, in inviting people to join him in prayer for Yemen, the Pope thinks especially of the “children, who are suffering due to the serious humanitarian crisis”. 

“I express my sorrow and concern for the further escalation of violence in Yemen, which is causing numerous innocent victims,” the Pope said during his New Year Urbi et Orbi: “Let us think of the children of Yemen, without education, without medicine, famished.”