At least eight Africa migrants have died in makeshift camps in war-hit Yemen, the U.N.’s migration agency said Thursday, warning thousands were living under “inhumane conditions.”
The International Organization for Migration said they had died of complications related to acute watery diarrhea at the Ibn Khaldoon Hospital in Lahj, a southern district controlled by the Yemeni government in its war with the northern Huthi rebels.
The IOM said it learned of the deaths on Wednesday. Most were Ethiopian.
“I am deeply saddened by the deaths of these eight migrants, who were among the thousands of migrants being held in deplorable conditions across Yemen,” said Mohammed Abdiker, the IOM’s director of operations and emergencies.
“We have decried this policy to the authorities, urging them to take a humane approach to irregular migration.”
Abdiker said the IOM had evidence guards had fired on migrants at a sports stadium in Aden, bastion of the embattled Yemeni government, wounding two and leaving a teenage boy “likely paralyzed for life.”
“IOM stands ready to support Yemen and other regional partners to identify sustainable responses to irregular migration, which do not involve the shortsighted abuse of vulnerable migrants and fully respects international law,” he said.
“I am greatly concerned that this dire situation will further deteriorate.”
Massive Civilian Toll
Yemen has descended into chaos in the past four years of conflict, with both the Iran-linked Huthi rebels and a U.S.-backed, rival pro-government military alliance led by Saudi Arabia accused of acts that could amount to war crimes.
Despite a ceasefire agreement reached in Sweden in Sweden, fighting in the country remains intense, particularly in and around the port city of Hodeidah – an epicenter of the conflict.
“Whilst warring parties pay lip service to implementing the Hodeidah ceasefire and Stockholm agreement, they continue to wage war on many fronts and civilians pay the heaviest price for their actions,” Mohamed Abdi, the Norweigan Refugee Council’s country director in Yemen, said in a statement Thursday.
My staff went to the offices of my Senate colleagues to share a new UN report showing that 233,000 people will die as a result of the Saudi-led war in Yemen by 2019.
If we override Trump's veto of our resolution and end U.S. support for this war, we can save thousands of lives. pic.twitter.com/GNcdo5x3yM
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) May 1, 2019
Fatima, a 30-year-old Yemeni who was recently displaced by fighting for a second time, told NRC that her family has lost everything.
“I fled out of fear with my family of 8 because there was nowhere safe anymore. We walked for two hours, without shoes under the blazing sun and suffered from dehydration. We had to carry old people and children on our backs,” she said, adding that her six-month-old nephew died in the process.
“We’ve sold everything. Nothing is left,” she said.
Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians, particularly young children, face death from malnutrition and cholera, which has become an epidemic affecting more than 250,000 people since the start of 2019 alone, according to NRC.
But the country remains on an established route for migrants from the Horn of Africa, who typically first travel by land through Djibouti before eventually undergoing perilous boat journeys across the Gulf of Aden to Yemen.
Many say they aim to travel by land to oil-rich Saudi Arabia to find work.
But many do not even survive the journey, dying at sea or at the hands of panicked smugglers.
The IOM said an estimated 5,000 African migrants, mostly Ethiopian and some from Somalia, were currently being held in makeshift camps in the government strongholds of Lahj, Abyan and Aden.
More than 1,400 people were “detained” in the Lahj camp alone, it said.
Nearly 150,000 migrants arrived in Yemen last year, according to the U.N.
In January the U.N. announced plans to airlift some 3,000 Ethiopian migrants to their capital Addis Ababa from Yemen’s Sanaa. Hundreds have already returned.
Voluntary flight returns were resumed last year after being suspended in 2015, when the Yemen war took a turn for the worse with the intervention of the regional military force led by Saudi Arabia.
Since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in the Yemen war, nearly 10,000 people have been killed, according to the World Health Organization, although other groups say the toll is significantly higher.