Police clash with slum-dwellers in Sanaa

Police moved into a slum area of Sanaa city on 20 July to try to evict several hundred impoverished people who had moved into the area saying they could not longer afford to pay rent.

Police used a tractor to demolish about 10 tin shacks, according to Saad Ahmed Salem, a slum leader, but did not succeed in evicting any of the roughly 200 families in the slum.

Ameen Jamaan, the deputy mayor of Sanaa, told IRIN: "We gave them notice to leave but they refused. Their makeshift homes would have developed into a neighbourhood, which is against the city's plan."

Known as `akhdaam’ (Arabic: `servants’), the slum-dwellers moved into al-Hasabah neighbourhood in June. "We admit the land doesn't belong to us, but we have found a suitable place to live. We could not pay the monthly rents in Sanaa," Salem told IRIN on 21 July.

"They [policemen] attacked us with stones and batons when we tried to stop them. Eight of our people were slightly injured," he said, adding that the incident had caused panic. Women and children were shocked and could not sleep all night, he said. "We were worried the area would be set ablaze."

Jamaan said the slum-dwellers had attacked the government workers who had tried to remove their makeshift homes, and the authorities had had to intervene to stop them.


Photo: Mohammed al-Jabri/IRIN
The 'akhdaam' slum-dwellers originally came to Sanaa from western and southern Yemen decades ago in search of a better life

No toilets, water, electricity

The slum lacks basic services, including water and electricity, with many people living under tarpaulins. The makeshift homes do not have toilets. "Those who want to go to the toilet go to a nearby open area," Salem said.

According to him, such unhealthy conditions have led to the spread of diseases, including malaria and diarrhoea. "The children do not have healthy and nutritious food. They just have bread and tea," he said.

If they have a job at all, most slum-dwellers work as street sweepers on a day by day basis. "Each worker gets 500 riyals [US$2.5] a day, which is not enough to buy food and rent a house. Renting a house would cost 25,000 riyals [US$125] per month," Salem said.

The slum-dwellers originally came to Sanaa from western and southern Yemen decades ago in search of a better life. Salem called on the government to provide them with permanent shelters.

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