Blog by Nimo Jirdeh, Oxfam Somalia Policy and Advocacy Adviser
Matiha is a mother of seven kids. She narrates how the Yemenis welcomed her family 25 years ago when the war broke out in Somalia. “I have seven children from a Yemeni father and I have come back home fleeing the war and expecting a treatment worthy of my background as a Somali origin”.
Today we are facing a regional crisis that warrants our attention as the world is marking World Refugee Day. A crisis that impacts within Somali shores and to a country dear to Somalis: Yemen.
The unrest in Yemen is of great concern to humanitarian actors in Somalia. It is estimated that 500,000 Somalis live in Yemen in which 230,000 of them are registered Somali refugees.
As the heavy fighting continues, thousands of Somali returnees and Yemeni nationals are compelled to flee and many are still lining up to catch the first boat heading to the Horn of Africa.
The total number of arrivals to date is 14,457 individuals. Out of them, 8,112 were registered at the Reception Centers in Bosaso and Berbera.
In one day alone on 27 May as many as 2,601 people fleeing the conflict arrived in Bossaso, Puntland, from Mukalla, Yemen. The majority of these were Somali nationals – around 2,513 of them. This was the largest single arrival in Somalia since the beginning of the Yemen conflict. Approximately 85 percent were from South Central Somalia.
Faiza has been ill for awhile and can hardly speak. Her mother speaks of the child she has lost and the sickness of her daughter and then laments about her inability to feed and take care of the infant in her arms; “he has become weaker and I have nothing to help fix his constant diarrhoea”. She gathers her four children as she lines up to be registered in one of the dedicated venues in Bosaso
Mariam Ali, a Somali returnee, spoke about how eager she is to link up with her husband in Djibouti. She says her husband has foreign citizenship but failed to get her out since the war broke out. “My husband Ahmed awaits me in Djibouti but I’m so scared to travel, in fear of being harmed on my way there, I don’t know what to do”.
Despite agencies making efforts to offer assistance, a large number of the arrivals are complaining about lack of sufficient food, hygiene and medical support. Some of the families are in need of immediate assistance while others simply need monetary support to reach their relatives or friends across the country, some aiming as far as Djibouti. People are leaving the reception center on daily basis and moving to local hotels or to their relatives where it’s more convenient and better access to food and medical attention for those who can afford it.
Ali Saeed Ali, a Yemeni refugee in Bosaso fleeing the conflict with his Somali wife. Ali talks about the lack of medical services in the camp and the much needed clinical support that his pregnant wife is in dire need. “My wife’s name is Neema Yusuf, she is 4 months pregnant and has been in pain for the last few days. She’s pushing me to take her to her mother in Mogadishu but I don’t have the money to do so. ”.
The number of returnees arriving is likely to rise since some agencies are now planning to facilitate the transportation of those in Yemen who cannot afford to travel. That would mean more burden on the local administration and humanitarian agencies as they will be tackling a larger number of returnees who are vulnerable and financially unstable.
It is clear that the conflict in Yemen is affecting Yemenis on a day to day basis, but we must remember that the conflict also has consequences for the broader region.
Take action and ask for the violence in Yemen to stop: https://act.oxfam.org/somalia/yemen-crisis-somalia