The hard life in displacement:

Young mothers in war-torn Yemen

The sun is roasting through the thick layer of sand that has settled in the air. It’s only February, but the temperature is getting close to 30 degrees. Inside the tents, the heat is almost unbearable. In these conditions live widowed Ahlam, 27, and heavily pregnant Rana, 20.
Read caption Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

What is it like to be a young mother and displaced in Yemen?

“There were heavy clashes near our house, and we couldn’t go out to fetch food or water.”

Ahlam welcomes us in her tent in Al-Garad, one of the many displacement camps in southern Yemen. Her voice cracks.

“One day my husband went out to his regular work in a construction site. A number of bullets hit his body and took his soul from us.”

Read caption Ahlam fled the city Taiz almost one and a half year ago. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Inside the small tent, her youngest daughter, Adyan, cuddles up in her mother’s lap.

Read caption Ahlam's youngest daughter, Adyan, cuddles up in her mother’s lap. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

It’s been just over a year since Ahlam took her four children and fled their home city Taiz. “While fleeing, I was afraid that bullets and snipers in the mountains would kill us if we got too close,” she says.

Read caption Ahlam together with her four children: Adyan is 4, Ahmed is 6, Taypa is 8 and Fatima is 10 years old. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Eventually they arrived in Al-Garad displacement camp, which was established in 2016 and houses almost 60 displaced families. Although the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and the World Food Programme (WFP) have distributed some food in the camp, the people in the camp still suffer from a lack of food.

Ahlam sometimes goes hungry for days so that her children have enough to eat. “I did not expect that my life would take this tragic turn and I would be left alone to care for myself and my children,” she says. In addition to the lack of food, there’s only one water tank in the camp where the residents can get clean water. There’s always a long line. Ahlam’s two oldest daughters, eight-year-old Taypa and ten-year-old Fatima help their mother fetch water and firewood.

Read caption Al-Garad camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) was officially opened in 2016. There are almost 60 families in the camp. IDPs in Al-Garad camp suffer from a lack of basic resources such as adequate shelter, latrines, food and water. NRC has conducted an Information, Counselling and Legal Advice (ICLA) information session in the camp. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Ahlam dreads the upcoming summer. Fiery winds will make the air denser and life in the camp even more difficult for the young family, and it will be almost impossible to move outside under the scorching sun.

Read caption Heavily pregnant Rana, 20, lives in Al-Mishqafa camp. She is happy that she has her family close, although everyone has their own problems to worry about. Her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Hayam is struggling with a nasty cough and malnutrition. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Another mother who is worried about the summer and the heat that comes with it is 20-year-old Rana, who lives in Al-Mishqafa, another camp in the area. She’s experiencing heat waves and dizziness - and is eight months pregnant.

In the camp, we’ve built tents and latrines for hundreds of families. But the conditions in the camp remain harsh: It’s cramped, and there is no sound proofing between the tents. The heat is almost unbearable, it’s windy, and the air is sandy. There are insects, snakes and scorpions.

Read caption Al-Mishqafa camp was established in late 2016. In November 2018, NRC’s shelter department built 312 shelters and 120 latrines. The camp population is still in need of continuous support as they lack consistent access to food and safe water, and struggle daily with camp conditions that expose them to insects, snakes, scorpions and very windy, dry weather during the summer season. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

The people in the camp lack many things: “We need more food and water, as well as fans. I don’t know how we’ll survive this heat without,” says Rana. Al-Mishqafa camp is located in the desert, and the heat is already extremely uncomfortable.

It’s been two years since Rana, her husband and their extended family arrived in the camp. “The clashes were getting closer to our house, and eventually bullets entered the house. We stayed a week without food as we feared coming out of the house. My aunt was hit by a bullet in her stomach, which forced us to leave our home,” she says.

Rana is happy that she has her family close, although everyone has their own problems to worry about. Her one-and-a-half-year-old daughter Hayam is struggling with a nasty cough and malnutrition. Her husband works on various construction projects to feed the small family. Much of his pay goes to procure medicines for Hayam.

Read caption One-and-a-half-year-old Hayam is struggling with a nasty cough and malnutrition. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun/NRC

Due to the pregnancy and the heat, Rana is often dizzy and throws up a lot. She’s dreading the birth of her second child. There are no midwives or nurses in the camp. No specialists who can help with the delivery.

She is displaced and a mother-to-be for the second time in war-torn Yemen.