Not long after sunrise, mango juice cartons and small boxes of cookies are passed around to the children on the fishing boat, as tired eyes scan the mountainous coast of southern Yemen. The motor drowns out any talk, as dolphins – believed to be a good omen – appear alongside, as if they are showing the way.
After the 16-hour sea journey from Djibouti, the boat docks in the Port of Aden, where passengers are greeted by armed men and stale, humid air.
Yemen is a country at war, with numerous groups, including the Houthi rebels, al-Qaeda and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) wrestling for power. An Arab coalition backing Yemen’s government has been conducting air strikes in the country for nearly two years, aiming to regain control.
But as the devastated country grapples with a massive humanitarian crisis, many Yemenis have become suspicious of one another. The country’s economic, urban and societal fabrics have been ravaged.
“I am scared of what is going to happen [amid the] fuel crisis, food crisis, gas crisis, cash crisis … I never feel safe,” university student Nisma Mansoor, 22, told Al Jazeera.
Some displaced Yemeni families are slowly returning to the country, but their boats are dwarfed by those departing. Many other Yemenis are desperate to leave, but have nowhere to go.
“War was a lesson for us all that nothing remains the same,” resident Taha Raed told Al Jazeera, “and no one knows when he is going to die.”