The IDPs .. Fleeing the War into Landmines’ Death Trap

Musaala Organization for Human Rights writes about the dangers of UXO and Landmines that await those who have fled areas of conflict for areas of supposed safety. There have been 9,284 deaths as a result of UXO and landmines since the start of conflict in Yemen, and women and children have been the primary victims. Internally Displaced People (IDPs) are at particular risk for this type of violence due to a number of factors, including that they frequently live in temporary shelter on public or previously vacant land. Read Musaala’s full blog post for more information.

The Story of Muqitah Al-Jaidi

By: Ali Al-Tam – Human Rights Activist

In 2021, the humanitarian situation in Yemen deteriorated and fighting between the warring parties intensified. As a result, the war began a new chapter of the most fragmented and bloody violence, with clashes continuing the outskirts of Marib and Al-Jawf until the armistice was declared in April 2022.

According to Martin Griffiths, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General of the United Nations to Yemen, in an open session before the Security Council on February 18, 2020, “the renewal of violence nullifies any gains toward peace and exacerbates the humanitarian consequences for civilians.” Although those briefings contained numerous calls to halt the escalation and expressed concern for civilians, the briefings delivered by the two UN envoys, Griffiths and then Hans Grundberg, over the two and a quarter year since the last escalation did not provide adequate protection for civilians.[1]

In the introduction to its report on Yemen, Human Rights Watch noted that 49 Yemeni regions were affected by the escalation of hostilities in 2021, while 35 Yemeni regions—including Marib and Al-Jawf—were affected by the conflict’s worsening in 2020. These developments forced residents of the conflict zones to flee in search of a safe haven. According to the report, landmines and unexploded ordnance have resulted in 9,284 civilian casualties since the start of the armed conflict in Yemen, the majority of whom were women and children.[2]

Landmines were used widely and indiscriminately in large quantities during the years of war that Yemen has been experiencing since the beginning of 2015, and the facts and reports of engineering teams for demining mines, as well as reports of international and local human rights organizations, were attributed to the Ansar Allah group (Houthis) for their unique use of landmines extensively in separate parts of the country, and they added new technology and locally made developments to them, which led to an increased danger to civilians and its threat to the lives of individuals, the environment, and animals more than to military vehicles.

To protect civilians from the threat of mines, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) funded several awareness programs from 2016 to 2020 with the goal of increasing community awareness on how people can protect themselves from this dangerous scourge, and these awareness programs have contributed to a reduction in the death and injury rate among civilians, children, and women. However, the threat remains as long as the war continues.

The King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Response-funded (Masam) project is making great efforts to reduce the suffering caused by mines for Yemenis and open safe humanitarian corridors through the process of training, technical support, and supervision of engineering teams for mine clearance in Yemen in collaboration and partnership with the national program. According to the most recent statistics, the Masam project removed 378,636 mines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive devices over the course of the last five years in 11 Yemeni governorates. Project Masam claims that 30 project workers died as a result of demining operations in Yemen. Five foreign experts were among the victims, and 52 other individuals suffered injuries while working on mine clearance projects.[3]

Despite these efforts, there is still a serious threat to the lives of civilians in the governorates and regions that have been contaminated by mines, and there are still a significant number of mines under the ground. As a result, travel has ceased, roads have been disrupted or closed, farmers are unable to plow their fields, students are unable to attend school, and urban activity has stopped. In general, trade, the economy, and social development were obstructed by landmines.

The Story of Muqitah Al-Jaidi, A Complex Tragedy of Human Suffering and Violations

Muqitah Muhammad al-Jaidi (30 years old) is one of the women who fled Al-Jawf Governorate with their children and families at the end of 2021, leaving everything behind, including luggage, household furniture, and other necessities, and headed towards the sandy desert in the Al-Yatma area, northeast of Al-Jawf Governorate.

Currently residing in a tent in the eastern suburbs of Marib with her husband and family, (Muqitah) is a displaced war victim whose dignity and privacy as a woman may not be protected. Her tent will soon be destroyed by erosion-related factors. She is a housewife with three children who has lost the ability to care for them and is also unable to stand or walk. After she sustained fractures in her upper and lower limbs as a result of a landmine explosion in the car she was in, her female relatives took care of her and assisted her in leading a life with great difficulty.

On January 11, 2022, Muqitah Al-Jaidi returned to their homes in the village of Al-Jaif – Bart Al-Anan District, with women and children to collect their belongings and whatever personal items and furniture they could find, and thus the story began. The green SUV was transporting four women and six civilians, including children, back to the village to pick up luggage and household items after the residents were forced to flee and were forcibly displaced to the Al-Hadba area and then to the Al-Yatma area, east of Al-Jawf Governorate.

Muqitah Al-Jaidi, one of the injured in the accident, said: “A landmine exploded in the car they were traveling in when they were close to their destination (homes) in their village (Al-Jaif – Bart Al-Anan), which led to the death of Yahya Faris Maafas, and her leg was fractured.” left thigh, knee, leg, and left arm, and another civilian (Y.A.) was wounded with fractures at the bottom of the foot and shrapnel in the head of another woman (N.A.), and the rest of those on board  survived.

Muqitah continues to describe the mine explosion, saying: “Everyone on board felt as though the explosion lifted the car off the ground before striking it. We were shouting and screaming, and I started bleeding from my arms and legs. I briefly lost consciousness from the intense pain. The survivors worked to save us until help arrived and we were treated.

Marib City was the closest to transporting the injured from this incident, but the hot spots between the two parties to the conflict prevented that, and in this context, Muqitah says in her narration of the story: “The paramedics took us to Sana’a, and there in the hospital, after recovering from operations, I felt that there were fractures in my thigh.” My knee and leg, and my left arm, are fixed with nails, and she began to feel better in her body while lying on the hospital bed, but when I saw my leg and hand wrapped in bandages at that moment, I knew that I had become unable to walk and practice my normal life as usual. She cried as she told her story. 

Medical records and payment receipts for medical services in her possession attest to her admission to a private hospital in Sana’a, where she received emergency care and underwent a number of operations, including the external fixation of multiple open fractures in her left thigh, left leg, and left knee.

The victim’s husband, Abd al-Karim Saleh, recounts the story in a different way, stating: “He sold his car and other possessions to pay for the treatment of his wife, Muqitah, which is estimated to cost about 36,000 Saudi riyals, including the costs of housing and accommodation for a month before moving her to Marib. He stated that some donors and family supported him. And that the organizations gave him absolutely no support in his distress while his wife was in a Sana’a private hospital.

Muqitah Al-Jaidi is one of the civilian war victims who qualifies for protection assistance, such as life-saving medical care or urgent cash aid for the homeless and society’s most vulnerable families. But her husband and other witnesses have confirmed that she was denied this right. It appears that those involved in protection initiatives, assisting war victims, and providing them with medical and treatment aid have already shown negligence toward the injured. Forgetting about the civilian war victims and leaving them and their families to suffer the burdens and costs of hospital care shows another aspect of the tragedy.

Abdul Karim (the victim’s husband) adds, “By mid-February 2022, the first stage of surgical interventions for the injured wife was completed, and it was decided that she will be discharged from the hospital in Sana’a, and she remains to follow up on a periodic visit to orthopedists and general surgeons for medical consultations according to the development of the situation.” He and his injured wife, along with her female relatives, decided to travel to Marib, where the displaced from their village live. The family continued to look for shelter and housing near medical services and hospitals in order to continue their doctor visits, until one of the residents of Marib’s host community found them and granted them temporary residence on his land in the city’s east, where the family set up tents. But the suffering didn’t end there, Because of ongoing health issues and additional suffering brought on by her family’s low income and living conditions of displacement, the injured woman must periodically consult with medical specialists, conduct diagnostic tests like x-rays, etc., and get ready for additional medical and surgical complementary interventions.

In this context, Abd al-Karim Salih stated that his wife underwent operations and surgical treatment in the Marib General Hospital Authority in March 2022, when a local organization working to monitor and document war victims (Himayah Organization for Civil Orientation, HOCO), investigated the incident that resulted in death, injuries, and other material damages. The injured husband was then referred to the Danish Refugee Council (DRC) for medical assistance and to cover the costs of the surgical interventions provided to them in the hospital. However, according to the specialized doctors, she still needs to complete treatment and perform some delicate surgeries in Knee bones, as well as needing a movable transport bed (mobile medical transport cart) and other special medical supplies.[4]

Muqitah Al-Jaidi is one of the mine survivors, and she is in fact one of the hundreds of Yemeni victims affected by mines who require not only physical and psychological healing but also general reintegration into society through initiatives like job creation, economic empowerment initiatives, and vocational training programs.

We may have learned from Muqitah Al-Jaidi about the degree of abandonment felt by Yemeni civilians who have been killed, injured, or had their property destroyed by mines due to the lack of response to their complaints. This tale made us, as activists, organizations, and individuals, aware of our moral obligation to mine victims and the resolution of their problems through domestic and international mechanisms and remedies.


[1]
 http://arabic.news.cn/2020-01/23/c_138729906.htm

[2] World Report 2022 – Human Rights Watch

[3] https://www.alarabiya.net/arab-and-world/yemen/2022/08/07/-%D8%A7%D9%84%D9%8A%D9%85%D9%86-%D9%85%D8%B3%D8%A7%D9%85-%D9%8A%D9%86%D8%AA%D8%B2%D8%B9-%D8%A3%D9%83%D8%AB%D8%B1-%D9%85%D9%86-%D8%A3%D9%84%D9%81-%D9%84%D8%BA%D9%85-%D8%AD%D9%88%D8%AB%D9%8A-%D9%81%D9%8A-%D8%A3%D8%B3%D8%A8%D9%88%D8%B9

[4] Himayah Organization for Civil Orientation HOCO is a local organization established in 2016, based in Marib. It monitors, documents and prepares databases of incidents of war affecting civilians and works on their advocacy, coordination and referral to obtain life-saving medical assistance.

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