Aid worker in Yemen: ‘We fear for our lives every day’
Published originally in The Guardian
The birth of my daughter Malak was fraught with danger and fear. The main hospital in Yemen’s port city of Aden was closed due to the fighting, so when my wife went into labour we had to make our way to a smaller hospital, with bombs exploding around us. The hospital itself was full of severely injured patients and there wasn’t a bed available for my wife.
Finally, after five hours, a bed did become available when a severely injured man died from his wounds. We had to wait while they scrubbed the blood off the bed. Thankfully, my wife had a straightforward birth – Yemen has a severe lack of medical equipment and trained health staff and I don’t know what we would have done if there had been any complications.
Life is particularly hard in Aden; we fear for our lives every day with explosions going off and fighting around us. It’s like living under siege. Like many families, we’ve had to move to escape the fighting. We have no water or electricity and our children are not going to school because it’s not safe. The schools are being used to shelter the displaced or as makeshift hospitals.
Food is expensive or non-existent. There is no wheat and fuel is three times more expensive than it was before the war began. Clearly, some people are profiteering from the sky-high prices. We have very little money but at least we are working – many people simply can’t because it’s too dangerous.
This has been the most difficult Ramadan we have ever experienced and our food parcels are vital. But it’s not just the food: it’s difficult to feel at peace when so much violence is going on around you.
I worry so much for my new baby Malak and her three-year-old brother, Ali. What kind of future are they facing? Will we ever have peace and stability in this country? And if not, what’s the alternative – dying at sea like the thousands who have fled Syria and Libya?
Depressingly, I find that my colleague, who works as a project assistant in Yemen’s third largest city Taiz, is facing similar fears.
His family, like many others, has fled the city and sought refuge with friends and relatives in outlying villages. Of course, Abdullah has a job to do in Taiz and, since he is the only one in his family still working, that means he supports them all. But the work is extremely challenging and fraught with danger. If Abdullah carries large amounts of cash, as aid workers often have to, he feels vulnerable. And how does he organise transportation for food aid when petrol is expensive and scarce, and the drivers are scared of moving around
During Ramadan, Abdullah’s thoughts, like mine, turn to family. Having fled Taiz, Abdullah’s brothers and sisters can no longer attend school or university there. They are now closed, as are most public services, along with the offices of the city authorities that used to run them. Now his children have nightmares.
Like me, he recalls that Ramadan used to be a joyous time to spend with your family. At night, markets were brightly lit up as people broke the fast and the shops were busy, but now people are scared to go outside.
• The names in this article have been changed to protect identities