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Finding shelter in Yemen’s graveyards

Written by Tearfund | 26 Mar 2019

Yemen four years of conflict

Farah* is a mother of 12 children and has 14 grandchildren. She lives in a graveyard. It’s the safest place.

Two years ago, fighting erupted near her village in south west Yemen. Some of Farah’s neighbours were killed or injured. ‘We did not hesitate to leave our homes that same night,’ she recounts. ‘In those moments, we did not think about anything but our safety. I can’t see very well and I can’t walk for long distances, but the fighting forced us to leave.’

‘As we left our house, the sounds of airstrikes, shelling and buzzing surrounded us from all directions. The bullets were chasing us and the warplanes were throwing missiles as we fled.’

‘'The bullets were chasing us and the warplanes were throwing missiles as we fled.'’

Fleeing on foot
Farah wasn’t able to take any of her things with her, she just hoped to find somewhere safe: ‘We spent the whole night walking on foot, in the morning we found ourselves in an area we had not known before, so we decided to stay here until someone could come to help us.’

They found themselves in a place where no one stopped them from setting up shelter – a graveyard. But with no possessions or materials to build that shelter, it was a challenge to start again in the bleak outdoors.

‘It was the worst day in my life when I left my house,’ recounts Farah. ‘I have not seen anything good since that ominous night. I hope to return to my house as soon as possible.’

The worst crisis
After four years of conflict, Yemen has been pushed to the brink of famine. It has been labelled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. According to the UN, 80 per cent of Yemenis need some form of humanitarian assistance and two-thirds of all districts in the country are in a ‘pre-famine’ state. In reality, this means children, women and men are on the brink of starvation.

‘'A humanitarian response is becoming the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis.'’
Karen Swartz Soerensen, Country Director for Yemen

In addition, a huge cholera outbreak has killed thousands and infected many more. With the conflict causing such insecurity, access to medical services has proved difficult for many people.

‘The needs have intensified in Yemen. Millions of people are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago,’ says Karen Swartz Soerensen, Tearfund’s Country Director for Yemen. ‘More than ever, a humanitarian response is becoming the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis. Together with our partners, we are committed to doing all we can to relieve the suffering.’

Tearfund is reaching out to people like Farah through our partner organisations. We have been providing families with safe water, sanitation and hygiene materials to reduce the risk of illness and disease. Our partners are also ensuring families receive water filters, chlorine tablets, oral rehydration salts and cholera treatment.

Seeds and tools have also been distributed to help families plant vegetable gardens, and emergency food packages are being distributed to vulnerable families.


• Ask God to comfort Farah and women like her who have been through such trauma and upheaval. Pray for their protection, provision and healing.
• As the Yemen conflict enters its fifth year, pray for a peaceful resolution, which will be crucial in averting famine and easing the suffering of the Yemeni people.
• Thank God for the courage and commitment of Tearfund partners bringing relief and hope to people like Farah.  
* Name changed to protect identity

Image credit: Azzam al-Zubairi

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Written by  Tearfund

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