After spending 12 hours collecting metal and plastic waste, Said delivers his hauls to recycling industry wholesalers in the city in exchange for the equivalent of around US$4 each day.
It may seem a small sum for the time and effort involved, but having been forced to abandon his former business and displaced from his home due to Yemen’s five-year conflict, the money he earns makes all the difference to Said and his family.
“I lost everything when the fighting broke out. The war took everything,” explained Said, who fled with his wife and seven children from their home in Al Hudaydah on the country’s west coast in 2018 after a wave of violence swept the area.
They went from living a comfortable life supported by Said’s successful business making and selling traditional ornate floor cushions known as madkha, to fleeing with nothing to join the estimated 3.65 million Yemenis displaced by the long-running conflict.
“The war took everything.”
Globally, more than 41 million people are currently displaced inside their own countries. Today (17 April) marks the 22nd anniversary of the adoption of the Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, the first international standards for internally displaced people that set out their rights and governments’ obligations towards them.
“We first went to Sana’a, but after spending some time there, life was hard. I could not find support or a job,” Said said. At the end of last year, the family made their way to the southern port city of Aden, where they found space in a collective shelter living alongside 135 other families displaced from various parts of the country.
On arrival, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, and its partners provided them with essentials including a tent and mattresses. But with no means of earning an income, it was a struggle for Said just to keep his family fed, so he began collecting waste metal and plastic by hand simply to survive.
After five years of conflict, Yemen’s economy has contracted by almost 50 percent and is on the point of collapse. Only half of the country’s health facilities remain operational, more than a quarter of children are currently out of school, and over than 80 percent of the population have fallen below the poverty line.
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