Published in The Huffington Post
Living in Yemen, we are used to the daily sounds of bombs exploding around us, but we try to live a normal life. However on Monday [11th May] when I took my wife and 11 month old daughter to visit relatives, the noise started to be unbearable. On my way home, I saw women and children rushing past, crying and screaming, desperate to reach the safety of their homes.
When I finally reached home, I went up to the roof. It was an unforgettable moment, watching my home town of Sana’a being destroyed. I was so shocked and afraid and also immensely sad that there was nothing I could do to stop this.
After the violence ended, I walked out into the neighbourhood and saw an old woman with sheer terror on her face. She asked me in her petrified voice, whether or not it was safe for her to continue on her way home.
I walked to my friend’s house and we sat on his roof together discussing what had happened. Then suddenly, a huge explosion occurred in front of our eyes. It was one of the largest explosions in the history of our country. More than 69 people were killed and more than 250 people were wounded. Beneath us, people were running in waves, desperate to reach safety, but having no idea where that might be. That night, like most of my neighbours, I decided to evacuate our home.
The following day, the five day truce began. This was extremely important for Islamic Relief, one of the major aid agencies operational in Yemen. Since the recent conflict started, we have distributed food to over 335,000 people and medical supplies to three hospitals in Aden, but it’s a huge challenge. Security concerns and a lack of electricity, fuel and telecommunications have placed serious obstacles in our way.
During the truce we have managed to deliver 1,800 metric tonnes of food, but lack of fuel was a major obstacle. We only had enough for 300 metric tonnes and thankfully, the World Food Programme was able to deliver the rest to our food distribution points. Our teams on the ground then made sure that this food reached 126,000 people.
I hope that the truce can be extended because there is so much to do. Even before the recent violence, over half of the Yemeni population was living in poverty. Now the situation is desperate; there is not enough food and clean water and the health system is on the verge of collapse. Hospitals are overwhelmed with casualties; with a dire shortage of trained health workers, no electricity and a severe lack of medical supplies and drugs.
I recently visited the main hospital in Sana’a to visit one of the young orphans, Islamic Relief has been supporting through our orphans project, providing food, cash, blankets and school materials.
Two weeks ago, Naseem (13) was at home in one of the slums in Sana’a, while his uncle and guardian was out desperately looking for work in order to be able to put a meal on their table that night. His uncle normally works as a labourer but the work has not been possible during the recent violence. Following a bomb attack, huge boulders were dislodged and crashed into Naseem’s humble wooden home, and the rotten roof collapsed on top of him.
He is now in hospital with severe injuries to his head and face and a broken hand. But despite these injuries, he will be discharged soon as the hospital doesn’t have any electricity. It breaks my heart to see a lovely, young boy in such a desperate situation. Throughout his thirteen years he has never known peace. He has also had to work hard every day to support his new family to provide food.
There is so much potential in young people like Naseem, but this potential will be wasted as long as violence persists in this country.
I hope one day the violence will end and we can all walk about freely without fearing for our lives. And I hope that children like Naseem and my own baby daughter, Sama, will go onto to lead long, happy and fruitful lives.