Yemen: Small Boats... Full-scale Wars

  • It could be hard to imagine that such turquoise waters have ever witnessed a conflict between belligerents, destruction, or displacement of people. This is the Red Sea Coast in Zubab, Bab El Mandeb Directorate, Taiz, Yemen. For the population of Zubab, such waters are not only beautiful natural scenery, but it is also their sole source to make a living. Skilled fishermen here describe their work as difficult activity. They often, too, depict the sea as treacherous due to its fickleness. Yet, when the sea is compared to war, which is more hazardous? The following photos show a glimpse of their lives and how they deal with the changeable sea.
  • Ahmed Barary, 40 years old, has been working as a fisherman for more than 20 years and is a father of four children. “The best moment I have is when the fishing net brings lots of fish,” Barary says. Most of what fishermen earn is spent on maintenance of boats, buying fuel, and fishing tools. Net profit is often small, especially because of high fuel prices, inflation, and conflict. Moreover, fishing is a full-time job that allows fishermen no time for another job to increase their income. Fishermen said that the worst day they ever have is when they go fishing and spend a lot of money on fuel and maintenance but return with little to cover the costs, or the worst, with no fish at all.
  • Describing the condition of fishing over half of the year, Hifzullah Saleh said: “The wind is fierce, and our boats are small.” He refers to that time of year when fish is scarce, and the wind intensifies, putting fishers’ lives in danger and making it unsafe to sail. During those difficult months their daily income decreases. In other months when the wind is less fierce and fish is abundant, fishermen may have good luck and can save enough money for maintaining their boats or even buying new ones.
  • Bab El Mandeb Directorate is famous for its delicious fish; and that most of its population depends on fishing. Due to conflict and being near the front line, people living there had to flee their homes. “We had fled, leaving everything here. And five years later when we returned, we had nothing at all.”
  • “We have returned back to rebuild our lives as if we were firstborn,” added Saleh who had returned only to find his house in ruins. He said: “We want nothing. All I hope for is that we do not have to live in displacement once again. The worst thing to face in life is living in displacement.”
  • Nashwan Atteya, 48 years old, (left) has been working as a fisherman for 20 years. He is providing for a family of five children. Describing his relationship with the sea, he says: “It is like a father-son relationship; if we are to be separated from the sea, we die.” Nashwan and his family had to flee due to fighting and live in displacement in areas where there is no coast. He could only resist for five months and moved to another place by the seashore. “Because the sea is our only source of living and income.”
  • “We have no cars or anything else. We only have things for the sea – boats and fishing tools.” He added that during the period fishermen live away from the sea, they become indebted to the groceries and stores.
  • “Truly, I do not want them to grow up as fishermen. I want them to be doctors – any career other than fishing. No one knows how tiring the sea is except a fisherman,” says Nashwan, referring to his children whom he is keen to educate for a better future – a future without fishing or war.
  • To make their lives a bit easier the ICRC, in cooperation with the Yemeni Red Crescent, provides various aides to Zubab fishermen. In November 2020 the ICRC has distributed fishing tools to 1500 fishermen.
  • We have also provided financial assistance to 896 families in Al Makha and Zubab, and are working on distributing more financial assistance to help 4000 families in Shamaiteen, Taiz.
  • Our support to fishermen comes as a part of our sustainable support to the most affected groups by conflict in Yemen, which aims at providing long-term economic solutions. These solutions include cattle vaccination programs, providing seeds and fertilizers. We hope that these efforts help establish economic empowerment in communities affected by conflicts.