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‘The war crushed our dreams’: Displaced again and again in Yemen’s Marib

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As fighting intensifies around the central Yemeni city of Marib, thousands of people are being forced to flee the violence each week. But for many, this is just the latest upheaval in more than six and a half long years of war. 

Sixty-five-year-old Salih al-Asoudi and his 14-member family have lived in three different camps since the early days of the war in 2015, when the conflict between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni government (backed by a Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates-led coalition) reached their hometown of Sirwah, in the western part of Marib province. 

“We used to live in a big house that I built myself. It took me two years to build it. We ended up living in it for only three years, until the war turned us homeless,” he told The New Humanitarian from al-Sumayya camp, east of Marib city, where the family is now sheltering. “We move from one camp to the other.”

Al-Asoudi’s story is all too familiar to Yemenis, who have been plagued by violence, displacement, and hunger since war broke out in March 2015. 

Accurate statistics are hard to come by in all of Yemen, but the UN’s migration agency, IOM, said in a Wednesday statement that 45,000 people have been forcibly displaced by the conflict around Marib since the beginning of September, shortly after a Houthi rebel offensive on the government-held city intensified. The figure includes 15,000 people in November alone. The government’s Executive Unit for Internally Displaced Persons puts the total number at more than 93,000.

Elsewhere, in the western province of Hodeidah, around 6,000 people have been uprooted from their homes over the past weeks as the government pulled its troops out, allowing the Houthis to move in.  

These movements are part of a wider picture of a war that has left, by the UN’s estimation, more than four million people displaced across the country. Like al-Asoudi, most of them have been away from home for more than two years, and IOM says many have already had to flee multiple times. 

Displacement makes getting or keeping a job even more difficult than it would otherwise be, in a country that has been economically decimated. It makes it hard for children to stay in school, and it removes any sense of stability. It also leaves many dependent on aid, although al-Asoudi and other displaced people The New Humanitarian spoke to said that assistance has been hard to come by over the past few years.

Nevertheless, when the warring sides began fighting for control of his hometown, he and his family found themselves caught in the middle, with no option but to run for their lives. “There was shooting and bombs everywhere. We fled, taking all that we could with us,” he recalled. “We couldn’t take everything, but we took our livestock and whatever we could carry.”

False hope

After leaving their homes, al-Asoudi’s family, and hundreds like them, settled in an area called al-Sawabin, near Marib’s dam: one of the area’s many resources that – along with natural gas – make it such a key prize for the warring parties. 

It was also important for the new arrivals: Several displaced people told The New Humanitarian their first priority was to settle near water, and as close to home as possible so they could return as soon as they felt it was safe to do so.

Little did they know that their first flight was just the first stage in a long cycle of displacement that would go on for years, with no end in sight. 

Read more → The crushing inevitability of Yemen’s war

Before the war, al-Asoudi made his living as a livestock herder, an income that was mostly cut off when he had to leave home. Some of the animals he managed to bring with him have died, and he was originally hopeful that the government or aid organisations would step in to help.

That was not the case. “Our numbers kept increasing. Thousands of families settled… on the banks of the Marib dam,” he said. “We had nothing but water.”

Al-Sawabin was the first of more than 161 camps in Marib province, according to the Yemeni government. The UN and most international aid groups estimate that around one million people have fled to Marib over the course of the war; the government puts the number closer to two million.

Some left because of violence, as bombs fell and front lines shifted. Others left Houthi-controlled areas when the group began arresting its opponents, said Fahmi al-Zubairi, who is based in Marib and works for the government’s human rights bureau.  

As the numbers of displaced increased, so did disappointment in the humanitarian relief effort. 

“The aid organisations are absent here. No one even tried to visit us,” said al-Asoudi. “But we made do with just being safe, and tried to start a new life, despite the suffering caused by being away from home.”

According to Salem Sai’d, director of local NGO Human Access, “the amount of aid does not match the large number of IDPs.”

But Saleh Alzaghari, a spokesperson for the UN’s emergency aid coordination body, OCHA, in Yemen, pushed back against accusations about low levels of assistance over the past years and now, saying that significant efforts had been made.

“Despite a challenging operating environment, aid agencies have ramped up life-saving assistance” in Marib and nearby provinces, “ensuring that people affected by the most military escalations (which started in September 2021) receive the assistance they need, wherever they are located,” he wrote in an email.

Alzaghari said that around 1,200 families are registered at al-Sumayya, where al-Asoudi lives. He said early emergency assistance had been provided, safe drinking water was being trucked in, and latrines are being built. 

Food delivery will begin to new arrivals this week, 445 families have so far received “non-food items and tents”, and aid agencies and NGOs “are working to mobilise additional supplies to assist the other families”, he continued, adding that cash aid to 1,000 families is expected “in the coming weeks”.  

Naser al-Doweisha, 76, who also fled Sirwah in 2015, echoed al-Asoudi’s comments about the insufficient support from aid agencies. Their needs have increased as the value of the little money they had left dropped, leaving them much poorer. At the beginning of the war, one US dollar was equivalent to 215 Yemeni rials. Now, the US dollar equals 1,550 Yemeni rials. 

“When we first left our houses, we lived in cloth tents. But they couldn’t withstand Marib’s heat for more than a few months.” Al-Doweisha said finding decent new tents took a long time, and most of the help he and others received was in the form of a monthly food basket from the World Food Programme or other aid agencies and NGOs.

A second flight

Post-2015, the fighting eventually subsided in Marib, with the government taking firm control of most of the province. By 2017, some were even touting it as a boomtown.

But while al-Asoudi’s hometown was peaceful, he couldn’t go back home. He still feared that the Houthis, who were not far away, would consider him an enemy for leaving in the first place – not to mention the fact that landmines had been planted in the area.

Then, in late 2020, Marib became a focal point of conflict once again, with fighting between government forces and the Houthis reaching the banks of the dam. People living in the camps were no longer safe and felt compelled to move again.

This time, al-Asoudi and his family landed up at a camp called Rawdat Dhana on the other side of the dam. Unlike many of the informal settlements where people had been staying before – tents, schools, whatever they could find – Rawdat Dhana was run by the government, and, according to Saif Muthanna, head of the Marib branch of the Executive Unit for Internally Displaced Persons, it at one point hosted nearly 15,500 people. 

Living conditions were better there, and Kuwait’s International Islamic Charity Organization – together with a local NGO called Al-Ard al-Tayyeba (The Good Land) – began building hundreds of residential units. However, only 250 were completed so far, and in early November, officials were forced to shut down the camp and evacuate its residents.

Camps in the desert

As the bullets and bombs grew closer once again, al-Asoudi and his family headed for a new cluster of camps set up in the desert east of Marib city. They are far from basic services like hospitals or schools, but close to a highway and around 14 unplanned settlements that were already there. Together, the government says they are now home to around 15,000 families.

Both al-Asoudi and al-Doweisha have been in al-Sumayya, one of the desert camps, since February. They have stayed put as the fighting worsens, civilians are killed, and more and more people join the ranks of the displaced. 

“We have nothing in these camps. We are leading a primitive life. No toilets; nothing. The only reason all these people are here is to get a sense of safety from being together,” said al-Doweisha. “The Houthis killed us through perpetual displacement, and the government killed us by carelessness and negligence.” 

Mohsen Moraysi, head of five new camps in the area called Wadi Ubaydah, agreed that despite recurrent calls for support, aid remains minimal. 

But for those who’ve been on a continual journey of displacement, humanitarian assistance can only do so much. 

Al-Asoudi can’t help but worry about the fate of his children, four of whom are school age but have missed out on an education because of the war. Some IDP camps have makeshift schools, but moving so frequently means those who have to move multiple times often fall behind their peers. 

“Will they ever be able to finish their education? Or will war follow them without mercy?” Al-Asoudi wondered. 

Abd al-Haq, al-Asoudi’s 28-year-old son, feels any opportunity is already gone. “The war crushed our dreams,” he said. “Wherever we go, once we settle, the war follows us.”

This article was produced in collaboration with Egab, which connects journalists from the Middle East and Africa with news organisations worldwide.

Nation

Nigerian songs top most streamed songs on Spotify

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Nigerian artists are well represented in the year-end Spotify chart ‘Wrapped’ – an annual round-up of the top artists, albums, songs, and playlists of the year as streamed by users on the platform from around the world.

In a year when we were getting to grips with the new normal, what was Nigeria’s soundtrack?

In a first for the region, here are the 2021 Wrapped results, defining how Nigerians sought to stay entertained, informed, and connected with their favorite local and global music artists.

READ ALSO: Wizkid appreciates fans for their turn out to his show

Who are Nigerians listening to, and who are the newcomers that are shaking up the music scene?

Who still has staying power in the new normal and how do our local artists compare with the globe’s top hits and international hitmakers?

  • Nigerians dominate the list, with Wizkid coming in as the most streamed artist in Nigeria. He is followed by Burna Boy, then Davido is third. The only international act in the top five is Drake who is the fourth most streamed artist. Olamide rounds off the top five.
  • The love for local music continues in the most streamed female artists in Nigeria, with Tems topping this list. Nineteen-year-old Ayra Starr, who is also Spotify EQUAL’s November artist, is the second most streamed female artist. Doja Cat is the only international artist in this top five, coming in third. Teni is the fourth most streamed female artist, and Tiwa Savage is fifth.
  • LADIPOE’s Feeling got Nigerians in their feels, coming in as the most streamed track in Nigeria, followed by Peru by Fireboy DML, then Ruger’s Bounce in at third. Omah Lay’s Understand is the fourth most streamed track in Nigeria, with Monalisa by Lojay closing off a Nigerian-dominated top five.
  • Unsurprisingly, Wizkid’s rave of the moment Made in Lagos (Deluxe Edition)  is the top streamed album in Nigeria, and the original Made in Lagos is the second top streamed album, beating international star Justin Bieber’s Justice which is third. Davido makes another top appearance with his album A Better Time coming in fourth, and Drake’s latest release, Certified Lover Boy closes off the top five.
  • The playlist that Nigerians showed the most love is Hot Hits Naija, which really cements the fact that Nigerians love homegrown music.

To further give its users in Nigeria a more personalized feeling, Spotify has added a personalized Wrapped experience which has fun features such as:

  • Data stories to express a user’s year in audio – In addition to a user’s top artists, genres, songs, podcasts and minutes listened, the personalised Wrapped experience includes features such as: 2021: The Movie, Your Audio Aura and 2021 Wrapped: Blend.
  • Shareability- Fans can share their Wrapped cards on social channels like Snapchat, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok.
  • Exclusive experiences for top fans – An exciting feature is videos from more than 170 artists and creators, thanking fans for having them in their Wrapped. These thank you videos will appear if fans have a song by one of the participating artists in their “Your Top Songs 2021” or “Your Artists Revealed” playlists. Spotify will also be rolling out Spotify Clips for Podcasts and fans will be able to view special thank you messages from some of their favorite podcast hosts by visiting a participating show’s page on the platform.

The full breakdown of the top lists is below.

Most streamed artists in Nigeria

  1. Wizkid
  2. Burna Boy
  3. Davido
  4. Drake
  5. Olamide
  6. Buju
  7. Justin Bieber
  8. Fireboy DML
  9. Rema
  10. Tems

Most streamed female artists in Nigeria

  1. Tems
  2. Ayra Starr
  3. Doja Cat
  4. Teni
  5. Tiwa Savage
  6. Nicki Minaj
  7. Billie Eilish
  8. Ariana Grande
  9. Simi
  10. Rihanna

Most streamed tracks in Nigeria

  1. Feeling – LADIPOE
  2. Peru – Fireboy DML
  3. Bounce – Ruger
  4. Understand – Omah Lay
  5. Monalisa – Lojay
  6. Essence (feat. Tems) – Wizkid
  7. Dimension (feat. Skepta & Rema) – JAE5
  8. Ginger (feat. Burna Boy) – Wizkid
  9. Rock – Olamide
  10. High – Adekunle Gold

Most streamed albums in Nigeria

  1. Made in Lagos (Deluxe Edition) – Wizkid
  2. Made In Lagos – Wizkid
  3. Justice – Justin Bieber
  4. A Better Time – Davido
  5. Certified Lover Boy – Drake
  6. Twice As Tall – Burna Boy
  7. Carpe Diem – Olamide
  8. 19 & Dangerous – Ayra Starr
  9. Shoot For The Stars Aim For The Moon – Pop Smoke
  10. Donda – Kanye West

Most streamed playlists in Nigeria

  1. Hot Hits Naija
  2. African Heat
  3. Gbedu
  4. Today’s Top Hits
  5. Traffic Jams Naija
  6. RapCaviar
  7. Afropop
  8. Party Dey!
  9. New Music Friday Naija
  10. Bubblin

It’s clear that Nigerians are loving the content coming out of the region and creators are making the most of platforms like Spotify to share their culture with the rest of the world through music.

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Biden On Supply Chain Crisis: ‘Remember Cabbage Patch Kids Back In The ‘80s Or Beanie Babies In The ‘90s’

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President Joe Biden attempted to downplay widespread supply chain issues across the country this holiday season by suggesting that it is similar to past years when popular toys were not widely available.

“If you’ve watched the news recently, you might think the shelves in all our stores are empty across the country, that parents won’t be able to get presents for their children on holidays — this holiday season. But here’s the deal: For the vast majority of the country, that’s not what’s happening,” Biden claimed. “Because of the actions the administration has taken in partnership with business and labor, retailers and grocery stores, freight movers and railroads, those shelves are going to be stocked.”

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“Now, I can’t promise that every person will get every gift they want on time. Only Santa Claus can keep that promise. But there are items every year that sell out, that are hard to find,” Biden said. “Some of you moms and dads may remember Cabbage Patch Kids back in the ‘80s or Beanie Babies in the ‘90s, or other toys that have run out at Christmas time in past years when there was no supply chain problem.”

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Biden then attempted to address Americans’ concerns over inflation by trying to portray the problem as not a uniquely American problem.

“Here are a few things you should know: Just about every country in the world is grappling with higher prices right now as they recover from the pandemic,” Biden claimed. “In the United Kingdom, price increases have hit a 10-year high.  In Germany, a 28-year high.  In Canada, price increases are the highest they’ve been since the ‘90s. This is a worldwide challenge — a natural byproduct of a world economy shut down by the pandemic as it comes back to life.”

Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said this week that he expects high inflation to continue well into 2022 and that the U.S. government should stop trying to portray the situation as “transitory.”

“So I think the word transitory has different meanings to different people,” Powell told Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) during a Senate hearing on Tuesday. “To many, it carries a time, a sense of short-lived. We tend to use it to mean that it won’t leave a permanent mark in the form of higher inflation. I think it’s probably a good time to retire that word and try to explain more clearly what we mean.”

“We will use our tools to make sure that higher inflation does not become entrenched,” Powell continued, adding that high inflation would “certainly” continue “through the middle of next year.”

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UK: eAlert: 2 December 2021 – National Tree Week

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In this eAlert, we give you a full round-up of news from National Tree Week 2021. Source: GOV.UK

Read Full Story At UK: eAlert: 2 December 2021 – National Tree Week

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