In Yemen’s besieged city of Taiz, peace is the priority

Many residents of the city are in dire need of basic goods, but what they most want is an end to the fighting.

Water shortage continues as conflict rages
Water shortage continues as conflict rages [Al Jazeera]

Taiz, Yemen – Wasim al-Khaishani, 38, lost his job as a driver back in April and cannot earn an income for his family of six. Instead, he has been selling his wife’s jewellery to buy necessities.

“I can sell my wife’s jewellery and buy basic goods, even if the price is more than double, or we can eat less than usual.”

Like most residents who remain in Taiz, Khaishani’s family are in dire need of rice, wheat, flour and other basic goods, which are either unavailable in the citiy’s markets or exorbitantly expensive due to the difficulty of transportation amid the fighting.

Khaishani noted that the price of a 50kg bag of wheat has risen from 5,000 Yemeni rials ($23) before the war to 11,000 rials ($51). However, he said aid was not the priority at the moment.

“We do not need the humanitarian aid if the battle will not stop. First of all we need to be safe … We do not hear that someone has died of hunger, but there are hundreds who have been killed by shelling,” Khaishani told Al Jazeera.

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Last week, the internationally recognised Yemeni government and the Houthi rebel group agreed to a ceasefire, and to resume the delivery of humanitarian aid to the besieged city of Taiz.

The Houthis do not implement the agreements as they only understand the language of force, and for this reason we hope that Taiz residents be patient for the next period until we liberate the province from the Houthis.

by Moa'ath Al-Yaseri, a leader in the Popular Resistance movement

But the ceasefire was violated on the day it went into effect, and little aid is reaching Yemen’s second-largest city.

Mamoon Al-Maqtari, another resident of Taiz’s al-Camp neighbourhood, said the emphasis should be on a ceasefire. “I call for the warring sides in Switzerland to start by discussing the implementation of the ceasefire, then the humanitarian aid. If the ceasefire does not happen, that means the humanitarian aid will not get to Taiz.”

He said that he depends on charity for supplies of wheat, flour, rice, sugar and water. The price of 5,000 litres of water was 4,000 rials ($19) before the war, but is now 12,000 rials ($56).

Abdul Kareem Shamsan, the head of the Coalition of Humanitarian Relief in Taiz, told Al Jazeera that Taiz residents want a ceasefire to be implemented first, but it is counterintuitive to provide the besieged residents with aid before the battles stop. 

“The ceasefire was not respected by the warring factions in Taiz, and UN humanitarian aid did not get to the besieged areas in Taiz city. [But] it arrived to the al-Hawban area in Taiz which is under the control of the Houthi rebels and there are hardly any clashes there,” Shamsan added. 

He stated that all humanitarian aid arriving in Taiz fell into the hands of the Houthi fighters in al-Hawban, contrary to a December 15 statement by the humanitarian coordinator of the UN office in Yemen, which said that aid had arrived in hard-to-reach areas such as Taiz.

Some organisations within Taiz are able to buy humanitarian aid from traders in al-Hawban district or Taiz and distribute it to residents, as the traders can bring the goods using unpaved roads. 

Monther al-Adimi, a project officer at Islamic Relief, told Al Jazeera that the charitable organisation has been working in Taiz since fighting began there in April.

“We cannot bring the goods to the besieged city, but we enter the city and buy the basic goods from the local market in Taiz city, and then distribute them to the beneficiaries,” he explained.

Adimi said that in the next week, Islamic Relief will distribute 500 food baskets to families in Taiz. Each contains 50kg of flour, 10kg of sugar, 10kg of rice, four litres of cooking oil and 15 cans of beans.

He added that Islamic Relief also built water towers in Taiz in October to address water shortages in the city.

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Meanwhile, the battle for Taiz continues despite the attempted ceasefire. On Tuesday, Houthi fighters bombed a local radio and television broadcast building in the Thabat area.

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The bombing destroyed most of the building. Moa’ath Al-Yaseri – a leader in the Popular Resistance movement, which fights against the Houthis – said the Houthis did not stop targeting Taiz during the ceasefire.

“We know that the residents are looking for a ceasefire, and we wanted them to have a break from the war, but we could not do this as the Houthi fighters did not stop the battle for a single day,” he said.

Yaseri claimed that the Houthi fighters violated the ceasefire because there are no international observers inside Taiz. 

“The Houthis do not implement the agreements as they only understand the language of force, and for this reason we hope that Taiz residents be patient for the next period until we liberate the province from the Houthis,” Yaseri said.

Al Jazeera English tried to contact Zuhair Ali, a Houthi supporter in Taiz but he declined to comment.

Nearly 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting since March, most of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

Source: Al Jazeera