Institute for War and Peace Reporting | Giving Voice, Driving Change

Yemen: Humanitarian Crisis Fears

Acute water shortages in Taiz and arrival of droves of IDPs in Aden causes concerns.
By Hamza Alshargabi
  • Anti-regime protesters in Sana’a. (Photo: Kate B. Dixon)
    Anti-regime protesters in Sana’a. (Photo: Kate B. Dixon)

In the country’s third largest city Taiz, in the highlands of southern Yemen, people are being bombarded daily by the republican guard; there are tanks on the streets attacking people constantly.

The only general hospital in Taiz, which is ironically called the Revolution hospital, has been taken over by the security forces. Because of persistent water shortages in Taiz, supplies must come from outside. Taiz has not received clean water for 55 days, and this is putting huge pressure on the people living there.

I’m especially concerned about Taiz because this is one of the cities that has been at the heart of the civil movement against the authorities. If these people become isolated, then this will have repercussions for the movement itself and the revolution.

Aden, a major port city in the south of Yemen, has also been suffering. The city is now filled with more than 30,000 internally displaced people, IDPs, who have fled from conflict in Abyan, a neighbouring province east of Aden on the south coast.

I genuinely fear that the high number of IDPs coupled with limited access to clean water might lead to another humanitarian crisis. So far, the political youth movement the Coordinating Council of the Revolution of Change has set up healthcare services; provided counselling; and managed the schools the IDPs are living in.

The creation of the CCYRC was an important development for Yemeni youth who have never been properly represented in national politics. The CCYRC is seen by them as a political force capable of achieving democracy. I believe this political force will become one of the main opinion leaders in the country.

The problem with interventions from international organisations is that they are very slow. The first organisation that touched ground in Aden was Doctors Without Borders. They are doing a very good job, but they are limited in what they can do because their work is strictly medical.

The more tensions and violence grow in Yemen, the more hesitant international organisations will be to intervene and help out.

In Sana’a, our electricity is cut off for two hours every day. It is almost equal to Mubarak’s decision to cut off internet and phone services during the January protests in Egypt. However, Yemen is a bit more settled. People cannot say that the regime has cut of all communication, but the power is mysteriously being disconnected for two hours every day.

Regardless of people’s daily needs, the fact that they cannot use their televisions or light their lamps when it turns dark takes a psychological and emotional toll on them.

Many of my friends have been attacked – both men and women. I experience what you might call “friendly threats”. Someone will approach me and talk to me about someone I know, or that I knew a long time ago, and then tell me to maybe “turn it down a bit”.

But because I speak English and have been able to talk with prominent news channels like Al-Jazeera and CNN, I think the regime is reluctant to take their threats against me to the next level.

People have already died for this revolution. I personally have seen people give their life for it. It’s kind of embarrassing to be afraid, especially when you look at what people have done for the revolution already.

Now the whole population is growing more confident. People are creating blogs to speak up about different issues, and this has turned into a chain reaction. Young Yemenis see other people creating blogs and publishing their own opinions, which helps them find courage to do the same thing.

People are not suffering because of the revolution; people are suffering because of the regime. The revolution came to remove the regime.

Dr Hamza Alshargabi is a 29-year-old registrar, blogger and activist in Sana’a, and a member of the CCYRC.

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