At least 78 people lost their lives in a stampede in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, leaving survivors to recount the horror of the incident. The tragedy occurred a day before the country celebrated the Eid holiday. Locals have blamed both merchants and authorities for the stampede, which occurred after hundreds of people gathered in the Alsafia district of Sanaa to receive donations of around $10. For many in Yemen, where years of war have left the already poor country economically devastated, this was reason enough to join the crowd.
Anis al-Asbahi, the Houthi-run health ministry’s spokesman in Sanaa, said that medical reports showed that people had died from physical trauma, suffocation, and a lack of oxygen. Abdulrahman Naji, 28, passed the crowd while driving near the school where people had gathered. He blamed the merchant and the Houthi rebels who control Sanaa and much of northern Yemen. “The merchant did not organise the people waiting for donations, and the police did not act pre-emptively and wisely.”
Some of those who crowded at the school gate to receive charity were government employees. Their salaries have been largely unpaid since 2016 due to the military conflict and power struggles in Yemen. Mohammed, a school teacher, said this stampede has to be a final reminder to the parties of the conflict. “The warring sides have stopped our salaries and starved millions of people. If all employees received their salaries as they used to do before the war, we would not see these crowds in front of charity centres, and this catastrophe would not have occurred.”
While the Houthis only focus on proving themselves to be a powerful military force, the Yemeni government is not ready to provide salaries to state employees in Houthi-controlled areas,” said Mohammed. “This stampede explains our situation sufficiently.” A few hours after the stampede, the Houthi authorities in Sanaa said they would give one million Yemeni riyals (about $2,000) to the dead victims’ families, cover the treatment of the injured, and grant everyone injured 200,000 Yemeni rials (about $400).
However, Mohammed rejected that as too little, too late. “The authorities show mercy after civilians die, and they just care about polishing their image before the public,” he said. The tragedy highlights the ongoing conflict in Yemen, which has left millions of people in dire need of humanitarian aid. The country has been embroiled in a civil war since 2014, when Houthi rebels seized control of Sanaa and other parts of the country.
The conflict escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led coalition intervened to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. The war has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions more displaced and in need of aid. The United Nations has described the situation in Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The country is also facing a severe outbreak of cholera and is struggling to contain the spread of COVID-19.
The international community has called for an end to the conflict and for a political solution to be found. However, efforts to broker a peace deal have so far failed. The situation in Yemen remains precarious, with civilians caught in the crossfire and facing dire humanitarian conditions. The tragedy in Sanaa is a stark reminder of the urgent need for a resolution to the conflict and for aid to be provided to those in need.