Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Ramadan ‘full of mortar shells’ in Yemen

Ramadan ‘full of mortar shells’ in Yemen

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
A Yemeni vendor sells grain in a market in the old city of the capital Sanaa, ahead of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP

Ramadan ‘full of mortar shells’ in Yemen

MOHAMMAD Abkar thought he would be home by the time Ramadan rolled around, but the Yemeni father of three will spend the Muslim holy month in a camp – displaced.

The fasting month began on Monday amid a war that has triggered what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis pushing millions to the brink of famine.

Abkar and his family were driven out of their village of Al-Munther in June last year when government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition launched a fierce campaign against Huthi rebels in the nearby Red Sea city of Hodeida.

Hundreds of families were forced to flee the port city and its surrounds.

“We have been here for about a year. A whole year, and we’re still displaced,” Abkar tearfully told media from a camp in government-controlled Khokha, about 130km (80 miles) south of Hodeida.

“We will remain patient, and the rest is in God’s hands.”

The warring parties agreed to a truce deal on Hodeida in Sweden in December giving people a glimmer of hope, but one that is quickly fading as fighting continues.

Most families have been unable to return to their homes over fears they could be caught in the crossfire.

Abkar is no exception.

He left his home with nothing but the clothes on his back and the crutches he desperately needs to walk.

Abkar and his wife have three children – all of them are disabled. They are living through extremely difficult circumstances in a makeshift tent pitched on sand.

Fasting from dawn until dusk during Ramadan will be no easy feat as summer temperatures soar.

“Back at home, we used to get all sorts of food during Ramadan, such as soup and yogurt, but this year we are displaced,” said Abkar.

“I am disabled, and my children are disabled, and that it is why we cannot work.”

Abkar, although grateful for the food aid he receives every month, said he had one message to the world: “Look at us. Look at me and my family.”

The Huthis have been fighting government forces since 2014, but the war escalated a year later when the Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Iran-aligned rebels.

The conflict has killed tens of thousands people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say.

‘Full of mortar shells’

The war has left 3.3 million people displaced and 24.1 million – more than two-thirds of the population – in need of aid in a country that has long been the Arab world’s most impoverished.

Fighting in Hodeida, whose port serves as a lifeline to the rest of Yemen, has largely stopped since the ceasefire went into effect on December 18, but there have been intermittent clashes.

Both the government and the Huthis have been accused of violating the Hodeida truce, while an agreed redeployment of forces has yet to be implemented.

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Yemen is mired in a grinding conflict between the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels and a government backed-up by a Saudi-led coalition. MOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP

The conflict shows no signs of abating even in the holy month.

A pro-government force said on Saturday that the rebels have been digging dozens of tunnels under Hodeida’s ports and airport – bordering Abkar’s home of Al-Munther.

For Hodeida resident Hoda Ibrahim, 39, it is imperative the warring parties abide by the ceasefire at least during Ramadan.

That is her only hope, she said.

“We are constantly looking for gas and fuel, and we do not even have the time to experience the spirituality of this month,” said the mother of four.

“Ramadan this year is full of mortar shells, and we hope the situation won’t get worse.”

‘Blocked in’

About 230km east of Hodeida in the rebel-held capital, residents are also struggling to provide for their families during the fasting month – which every year witnesses an increase in prices.

Many have lost their jobs during the conflict and most government employees have gone unpaid since August 2016, after the central bank was relocated from Sanaa to Aden – the government’s temporary capital.

Saudi Arabia, along with the United Arab Emirates, another key coalition member, last month offered $200 million in aid to Yemen especially for Ramadan.

Reem al-Hashimi, the UAE minister of state for international cooperation, last week accused the rebels of blocking his country’s aid from reaching areas under their control, including Sanaa.

Mohammed Hussein, a resident of the rebel-held capital, said his family can’t observe Ramadan the way they used to.

“We can no longer prepare for the holy month the way we did before [the conflict],” he said. “We no longer are able to make purchases because we are blocked in and have no salaries.”


  • Kingdom’s domestic milk still cannot compete with imports

    Price competition and a lack of confidence by consumers are the main reasons the dairy market cannot compete with imports, said domestic milk producers. The large displays of imported fresh milk at the Kingdom’s supermarkets present a cumbersome obstacle for local producers, they said.

  • ‘Pesticide-laden cucumbers’ kill two, poison 150 in Banteay Meanchey

    At least two youths have died and 243 others are being treated for vomiting, diarrhoea, breathing difficulties, dizziness and muscle weakness after they ate cucumbers suspected to consist of pesticides. The incident happened on Saturday, said Banteay Meanchey provincial police chief Ath Khem. He told The

  • Three dead, 13 injured in collapse at Siem Reap pagoda

    At least three people were killed and more than 10 others injured on Monday after a dining hall under construction collapsed at Prasat Kokchak pagoda in Kokchak commune, Siem Reap province. Provincial police chief Tith Narong said Military Police, soldiers and local volunteers had successfully recovered 16

  • Forest Harmony’s $18M luxury villas break ground in Kampot

    Local and French joint-venture Forest Harmony has broken ground on its $18 million “second-home” Luxury Holiday Villas project in Kampot province. Century 21 Mekong CEO and local shareholder of the project Chrek Soknim told The Post that the project will comprise 90 villa units covering 18ha on a 97

  • China Unicom enters Cambodia

    China Unicom, the country’s largest telecoms operator, has expanded into Cambodia to build optical telecommunication pathways in the Kingdom as part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The Hong Kong-listed company officially opened its China Unicom (Cambodia) subsidiary on Monday to become the

  • PP-SHV Expressway on track for completion in early 2023

    The construction of the $1.9 billion Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway, which broke ground at the end of March, is on track to be completed by early 2023, Ministry of Public Works and Transport spokesman Vasim Sorya said on Monday. The 190km high-speed highway linking the capital to the