Heavy fighting between Shia rebels and coalition forces has pushed thousands onto boats and into the Horn of Africa.


Work for sailors has ground to a halt in Somaliland amid the Yemen conflict [Hamza Mohamed/Al Jazeera]

Berbera, Somaliland – In a temporary shelter made of corrugated iron and timber poles sit about 70 people, mostly women and children, hiding from the blistering mid-afternoon sun as hot, humid air blows in from the Red Sea.

They have come to the port town of Berbera in Somalia’s breakaway Somaliland region to seek a respite from the Saudi Arabian-led air strikes in Yemen. They are part of a stream of people who arrived by boat with thousands having landed at ports across the Horn of Africa region since the attacks began in late March.

With no aid agencies to welcome them, most have simply blended into the population.

Ahmed Hassan Hashi used the last bit of money he had to pay for the journey from Yemen to Berbera. It took him more than two days to cross the busy shipping lane to reach the Somali coast, the toll the journey took on his fragile body all too visible.

Heavy fighting between Shia rebels and coalition forces forced him out of his home in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa, where he had lived for the past 12 years.

He left in a hurry with his five children, his panic-stricken wife, and the few clothes he could grab. It was the second time in his life he had to escape war.

“Like rain the bombs were hitting everywhere. It was impossible to stay,” Hashi told Al Jazeera, rocking his heat-blister-covered seven-month-old baby in his arms to try and stop it from crying. “I went to Yemen running from the war in Somalia. I ran back to Somalia because of the war in Yemen. Somalia is much safer.” 

Hashi worked as a labourer in Yemen but the bombs brought that to an abrupt end. Sitting next to him trying to feed their six-year-old daughter water – because there is nothing else to provide – is his wife, Jamila Ahmed.

“There is nothing to give them. I only have this water. They don’t want to drink it because the water is hot. This sun boils and burns everything,” Ahmed said.

Their children who were going to school in Yemen sit next to them, still in a state of shock by what they witnessed. All their life they had only known Yemen as home.

No money

Not far from the Hashi family, sits Roda Hassan, 25, alone with her legs crossed and face covered in a veil.

 It is her first time in Somaliland, and with no relatives here she is worried, her dark brown eyes staring into the distance barely affording a blink.

“This town is expensive. I have no money to rent a place or buy food,” Hassan told Al Jazeera, blocking the sun’s rays from her eyes with her hand.

For her, life here is difficult but better than what she experienced in Yemen since the fighting started.

“Life changed after the first bomb dropped. Armed men started looting and shooting. They even raped some women. You could not move anywhere. I’m very lucky to have escaped with my life,” Hassan said.

Source: Al jazeera