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Yemeni refugees’ ordeal said to be dismal at best

OBOCK, Djibouti (BP) — Yemenis tend to be laid back, gentle and peaceful, says Shellby Voss,* a Christian worker in the Middle East. She noted many of them seem to pride themselves on Yemen being one of the few Arab countries that had a nonviolent Arab Spring.

However, the Houthi rebels’ takeover of much of the country has been disillusioning for many Yemenis. When the Houthis first seized the capital city, Sanaa, in September of last year, the Yemeni people were confident they would be able to pull themselves together as a nation. But now, a year later, the Houthis have also taken the port city of Aden, President Hadi has fled to Saudi Arabia, and peace talks in Geneva have produced no positive movement. Many Yemenis are losing hope the fighting will end any time soon.

As the conflict carries on, more are looking to flee the violence. Djibouti is the most practical option for many refugees. Its borders remain open to them, and it has an airport for those with passports and money. Unfortunately, the sea provides the most reliable route to Djibouti, necessitating more than 13 hours on a barge.

Shellby and her husband Greg* recently visited Djibouti’s Obock refugee camp to see what immediate needs they could meet. They said conditions in the camp were dismal at best, with no electricity and little water. The refugees who lived near the front of the camp had a few foam mattresses, though not nearly enough for their large families. Rice and noodles had been distributed randomly, but most families had no fire or pots for cooking.

Husbands and fathers often make the trip to Obock alone to see if they should bring their families. Most decide it’s better to stay in Yemen.

“Everybody I talked to at the camp said, ‘We discovered this was not a place we wanted to bring our families.’ So, they were waiting on a way to get back,” Greg said.

Shellby said, “They’d rather die in Yemen quick than in Obock slow.”

Shellby and Greg met one refugee who was doing everything he could to help other refugees as they came to the camp. At first he handed out bottles of water to newly arrived refugees. Now he helps them find their way around the city and locate apartments or hotels where they can stay. Before Shellby and Greg left Djibouti, they gave the man some funds to help his efforts.

Over the next year, Shellby and Greg hope to find more ways to meet immediate needs of the refugees in Djibouti. Pray they will be able to effectively coordinate efforts to meet the physical needs of the Yemeni refugees and show them God’s love.

— Ask God to provide safe places for Yemeni refugees to go.

— Pray Yemeni refugees will know God’s love as they flee their homes.

— Pray Christian workers Shellby and Greg will be able to help many Yemeni refugees make it through these difficult times.

*Name changed.

To help, the IMB asks those interested to complete the form here and type “for Yemeni refugee work” in the comments section. Baptist Global Response urges those who would like to contribute to BGR’s relief efforts among Yemini refugees to click here. Complete the form and type “GR12374A02 – 2015 South Y Relief” in the Donation Note section.