• Send page
  • Print page

Yemen: stories of women displaced by war

08-10-2009 Feature

Tens of thousands of Yemenis have fled the fighting of recent months. Some of them have taken refuge in schools. In Khaiwan Medina in the north of Amran governorate, five families are living in the village school. Each of them occupies one small classroom, with no toilet or window. Most people could take very little as they scrambled to escape the fighting. The ICRC has provided mattresses, stoves, tarpaulins and food. But now the families are under pressure, as the school year is starting and they are being asked to leave. Three women talk about their flight, and about life as a displaced family.

Fatima is a woman in her sixties. With her veil dropping across her face, she speaks of what used to be and how she is coping now.

" After my husband died 20 years ago, I moved to a farm in Harf Sufyan with my eight children. I have seven daughters, and my only son, who is now 20 years old, has been handicapped since he was young. We used to work on the farm and make our living; we were happy there. Then suddenly, things fell apart when the war started; we took whatever we could and headed to Wadi Khaiwan (Khaiwan Medina). We left the beautiful farm and are now living in a classroom in a school with other people. We have been here for almost two months now; it is only two weeks ago that we finally received some blankets, tarpaulins, stoves and so forth. " 

Mas'ouda and Seyda 

Mas'ouda is one of many Yemenis forced to leave their homes by the conflict. Her wrinkled face tells her story. " I have six children. They live with my husband and me along with our 45 young grandchildren. Our house was destroyed at the begi nning of the war, burnt to the ground. We left everything behind and decided to get out of Harf Sufyan along with my neighbour Seyda and her family.” Seyda takes up the story. " We have no choice but to live in this school at the moment. At least it puts a roof over our heads. But now they’re telling us we have to leave because the school year is starting and they need the classrooms. My husband and I have 12 children. Where are we supposed to take our family? "


Ha'ila and her husband have eight children. They made the long journey from Harf Sufyan on foot, taking two days to c over the distance. They live in one shared space: four walls and no roof on an isolated patch of land not far from the school in Khaiwan Medina.

“My husband fell and broke his leg during the journey to Khaiwan Medina. He has been away in the capital since then, trying to recover. I now live in a destroyed house with my eight children, not far from the school. " She points at the four stone walls surrounding us. " Look how small it is. We don’t even have a roof. When it rains, the place turns into a bathtub. We try to protect some of our belongings by putting them above the level of the water. Then we protect ourselves with whatever clothes we have on. Inevitably, we end up getting soaked. It gets very cold at night. We wouldn't be here if our house hadn’t been destroyed. I hope my husband recovers soon so we can work out what to do next. "



© ICRC / R. Al-Rifai