Yemen

We Did Not Know if We Would Die from Bullets or Hunger: Civilian Harm and Local Protection Measures in Yemen

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Civilians in Yemen have borne the brunt of armed conflict for over five years. As civilians struggle to survive, they face death, injury, homes that have been destroyed or damaged by airstrikes, shelling, sniper attacks, landmines, as well as enforced disappearances and torture. The war has also severely exacerbated economic hardship and humanitarian conditions in the country.

The December 2018 UN-led Stockholm Agreement between the Houthis and Hadi government – which called for a ceasefire in Hodeidah governorate and for the re-deployment of forces – is still in its infancy. Talks continue between parties to the conflict, led by the UN Office of Special Envoy to the Secretary General to Yemen (OSESGY), to craft a permanent peace agreement and broker a cessation of hostilities. The November 2019 Riyadh Agreement between the STC and Hadi government to allay tensions and agree to power sharing in southern Yemen could reduce violence, but its implementation remains to be seen.

Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) undertook research on the patterns of civilian harm, as described by civilians, by all parties to the conflict from 2017 to 2019 in Baydha, Hodeidah, Taiz, and Shabwa governorates, as well as from previously unreported cases in Baydha, from 2014.

CIVIC’s report, “We Did Not Know if We Would Die from Bullets or Hunger: Civilian Harm and Local Protection Measures in Yemen,” provides Yemeni civilian perspectives on their losses and suffering. It also calls attention to emerging local self-protection solutions. As the war drags on, civilians have begun to undertake self-protection measures, including relying on the tribal system to reduce risk to civilians. Such locally based solutions need to be supported to further curtail the violence and suffering experienced by civilians while broader conflict resolution initiatives are underway.