A recent increase in fighting across Yemen has forced over 100,000 people to flee their homes in the last three months, prompting Oxfam to warn that further mass displacements are imminent. Over 120 civilians have been killed in the last two months with people facing danger from airstrikes, missile and shell fire, landmines and improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Fighting has increased in recent weeks, particularly in resource rich Marib governorate where fierce clashes are concentrated to the south and west of Marib city around the Balaq mountains. Since September, 46,000 people have fled to Marib city or the Al Wadi district to the east, according to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Local authorities in Yemen have put the number at over 96,000.
Marib City had a population of 41,000 people only seven years ago but now hosts over one million people who have sought a safer place to live. Marib governorate is home to between one and two million displaced people.
Oxfam Yemen’s country director Muhsin Siddiquey said:
“There is fighting on all frontlines around Marib – previously it was only in certain areas. We are worried that we will not be able to reach some displaced people because they are so close to active frontlines. We are constantly trying to support more people in Marib but we need to be able to help them safely. We’ve already had to move our cash distributions as frontlines shift. Our team keep witnessing shelling in populated areas every week.”
As well as trying to flee the fighting, displaced people are dying in the harsh winter conditions. Local media have reported that an elderly lady and a young baby died at the weekend.
Many people have been forced to flee several times and Oxfam is concerned that they have nowhere left to run. Land to the east of Marib is dry and with scarce resources.
Salem* and his family had to live in caves and drink pond water when they were first displaced. They fled to two different camps before eventually reaching Alswidan camp on the outskirts of Marib. Each time, he and his family would leave everything behind and walk for hours to reach their next safe location. He said:
“People in the camp are always afraid of military actions that could hit them anytime. We all live in anxiety. I can’t even leave the camp for a short time. I live with fear about my family and my family sleep and wake up frightened.”
Marib is not the only area affected by the recent increase in violence. Civilians have suffered losses in attacks carried out by different warring parties across the country. In October, fierce fighting near Al-Abdiyah severely restricted humanitarian access and access to hospitals, leading to concerns that situation may be repeated in Marib.
During nearly seven years of conflict, over four million people have been forced from their homes and there have been over 18,500 direct civilian casualties. Over two-thirds of Yemenis are now in need of humanitarian assistance.
The UN Human Rights Council voted to end the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen, the body responsible for monitoring human rights in Yemen, in early October. All parties in Yemen’s protracted conflict have been responsible for civilian casualties.
“Humanitarian Law clearly states that civilian areas must not be targeted in any conflict. Yet civilians continue to be killed and homes and other civilian infrastructure continue to be destroyed. This crisis is getting worse, as is daily life for Yemeni civilians caught in the crossfire. The international community must urgently negotiate a lasting peace.”
For more information please contact:
David Bull, Oxfam Aotearoa
+64 274 179 724
- Salem* (name changed to protect identity)
- Displacement information from IOM and here.
- Death of elderly lady and young baby via The National news.
- Civilian casualties taken from figures compiled by https://civilianimpactmonitoring.org/ and Yemen Data project.
- Oxfam press release: Reaction to today’s decision by the UN Human Rights Council to withdraw the mandate to the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen 7 October 2021
- Marib Population in 2014 taken from UN Habitat Marib Urban Profile (March 2021)