By Fathiah Al Thamarye, a field officer with CARE in Yemen
War. Such a small word, but with a reality larger and more horrifying than anything I could ever have imagined.
At the beginning of this conflict I could never have predicted what was going to happen, and how much uglier and more inhuman the situation would become. You only realize the effects of war when you live it, and we have been living it now for more than three and a half years. During these last few years I have seen and heard stories of suffering that I had never come across in more than ten years of field work.
The devastation of this war is affecting every single person in Yemen. Whether it is through spread of disease, collapse of institutions, or economic decline and starvation.
People have been forced to flee their homes, leaving everything behind as they seek safety. And when they reach a safer place they realize that they have absolutely nothing to survive.
I have seen displaced people who starved with their children for two days because they had nothing to feed them. I have heard many stories, but there are four that will never leave me. I remember these women’s stories and tears come to my eyes and my heart aches.
As we entered Suaad’s house we saw that it consisted of only one bedroom, a kitchen and a bathroom.
Five family members live in this tiny house. Suuad’s kitchen was absolutely empty. When I asked her what she gives her four children to eat, she said: “We haven’t eaten anything for almost two days, apart from a piece of bread that was given to us by my neighbour.”
Taqia is a widow who lives with her daughter and grandchildren.
She told me with a sore voice: “Five years ago we were able to survive on what little we had, but since the war I was hardly able to feed my family. My daughter and her children are completely dependent on me. Sometimes I cry at night about our situation. Sometimes I can hardly sleep when I hear my grandchildren crying from hunger. Sometimes I go out and walk for hours until I reach a restaurant or a supermarket, hoping to get food from them.”
Samira told me her story in tears. She said: “I have ten children and the oldest one is 12 years old. They are all still so young and they need to be fed properly in order to grow. We have a small farm that we grow vegetables in, but for a long time it has not been enough to feed all twelve members of the family. And now with such high prices for water, we can’t afford to grow anything.”
Qayma is a very strong Yemeni woman. Before the war she was just about able to provide her children with a decent life. But with the dire economic and humanitarian situation she isn’t able to continue.
“My husband passed away before the war and I took full responsibility for my children. I used to work on different farms, from dawn to noon, and went home to cook lunch for my children and aging mother. As I started to finally feel more secure and stable, the war broke out and everything became very difficult. My small income was no longer enough to meet our basic needs. And the rise in prices now makes it hard even to be able to afford the essentials. I don’t know how to feed my children. I don’t want to watch my children starve to death.”
As she said this, she faltered and couldn’t finish her sentence. I couldn’t help but cry with her.
These are some of the stories that we come across in the field, and there are many other stories from different parts of Yemen.
Every day the situation is getting worse and worse. People are in urgent need of humanitarian aid in order to survive. But this is not a solution. The only solution is to bring peace to our country. Peace is our only hope.
It is a sad fact that women and girls are always the most at risk in conflict.
Too often in Yemen, women and girls sacrifice their own food to feed the men and boys in the family first, meaning they often go without if the family has food at all.
They face the threat of violence and their lives are put at great danger because there are few health services available, particularly for pregnant women or new mothers.
CARE is known worldwide for providing emergency relief to women and girls in times of crisis. Empowerment of women and girls is core to our humanitarian response in Yemen. This means being certain our efforts meet their specific needs, but also ensuring women get a chance to speak up and be heard.
Help support CARE's emergency work.