As famine is stalking Yemen, protracted African Refugees protest to UNHCR to survive
By Ahmed Abdi-Mareeg Media:Sana’a —Dozens of women and children protested Wednesday to UNHCR Branch at Algerian Street, Sana’a amid lack of food and proper medical treatment.
Fled from the Horn of Africa violence and caught up with the Yemen conflict refugees elders want to bring their difficult situation that they experience on daily basis to the International Community’s attention.
“My people are suffering from trauma, starvation, malnutrition, homelessness, unemployment and lack of proper medical treatment,” said Abdulkader Ahmed Hassan, one of the protest organizers.
“I was participating in the protest Yesterday when I fell down to the ground and became unconscious,” said Zahra Adam.
Adam said that she has been suffering from kidney pain and a shortage of breath where the doctors diagnosed her with a kidney stone and Nasal septum deviation when she visited several times to an Agency linked with the UNHCR- she was denied to be referred to a urologist for an X-ray, CT scan or ultrasound scan.
“I just stay indoors and can no longer work as a maidservant since I feel severe pain in my left kidney and whenever I go to UNHCR-linked NGO, they tell me to buy drugs from the local pharmacies,” said Ms. Adam, wiping tears from her cheeks.
Mohamed Ahmed Sheikh, who works as a car-washer in the streets of Safia is one of the protesters gathering here to raise their concerns with the UN Refugee Agency in Yemen, he said that he could not pay for the room and his wife and children are homeless.
“For three months now, I could not afford to pay rent arrears for the house and my family has no shelter,” Said Ahmed Sheikh.
Refugees say seven of the local staffers from UNHCR Yemen are stopping them to meet and share their concerns with the UNHCR’s International staffers operating inside the UN Compound that would likely be nicer, kinder and more empathetic than their local colleagues.
“We protesters rejected last Monday to talk to anyone except for International Staffers and I was not happy with submitting the complaint letter to Mohamed Omer’s messengers,” said Mohamed Nur Salad, referring to a Community-based protection officer that lost their trust with him.
Amina Abdi Farah Budul who has been a refugee for 40-years says she has protection concerns and the UN agency has ignored her plea.
“Two of my sons who were playing soccer in the street near the same house that they were born in came under attack after armed men chased them with a car and wounded one before putting him in a custody,” Budul said. “Neighbors helped my son’s release”.
“I have been here since 1992 and never experienced such kind of horrible attack. I feel we are no longer save in here”
Siad Ahmed Aden, another refugee protester said he has with liver disease and vomits blood and his UNHCR-linked doctors sometimes stop giving him the treatment that he badly needs.
The last time UNHCR and its IRD partner helped refugees to hold elections in a bid to select their own community leaders was December 2013, since then elections were delayed and community leaders working at Refugee Community Centers (RCC) in Sana’a turned to be informants spying on refugees and their organizers and even try to stop any activity their fellow UNHCR staffers did not favor of.
“You had better leave, these protests are not helping you,” said one of the community leaders to the protesters. “Who do you represent first,” they responded to him.
UNHCR says that it supports financially urban refugees and asylum-seers that refer their cases to IRD through community leaders, However, UNHCR’s partner IRD assess against the criteria that they have in place. A Committee made up of UNHCR and NGOs that partnered with the UN decide on the case.
Many of these women say that they did not share this privilege with their fellow refugees/asylees and they believe that their community leaders do not serve them equally.