Refugees: From African War to ‘Kharaz’ Heat [Archives:2001/13/Focus]

March 26 2001

Jalal Al-Sharaabi
Yemen Times
The health, economic and social condition of the African refugees in Yemen has deteriorated significantly.
Somali refugees entered Yemen in 1991. They were fleeing for their lives following the eruption of the civil war in Somalia. Since they trod the Yemeni land they have been moved to many places. In 1992 they were placed by the UN in the Omar Al-Mokhtar Camp in Al-Shaab City-Aden. Later at the end of 1993 they were moved to Al-Kout but were forced to leave it in the summer of 1994 when the civil war broke out. Many of them were killed and others were separated. They settled in the villages and mountains of Abyan and others went to mosques.
After the civil war of 1994 and the restoration of stability, they were again gathered in Jaheen Camp of Abyan which used to be warehouse for potatoes and onions, under the orders of the previous president Ali Nasser Mohammed. During this period they were prone to many diseases, lacking health and education services as well as suffering from social isolation.
According to Official statistics, there are 70 thousand refugees in Yemen. However, it seems that there are more than this number and the Commission does not know about them.
One should be proud of Yemen’s humanitarian position when it agreed to host these refugees. But the consequences were not calculated correctly. Yemen has not been able to preserve the dignity of these refugees.
Many newspapers have highlighted the lack of health services and reporting many cases of AIDS among the refugees. Today, they are facing the challenge moving to Kharaz in Lahj. This remote area is 25 kilometers away from the nearest populated area, as if poverty, diseases, hunger, etc., were not enough, now total isolation has been added.
It is a time for all organizations concerned with refugees’ rights to be alert. The Yemeni government can not help alone. It is a tragedy for the people who escaped death in their land to suffer hard times in their immigration.