Tag Archives: Yemen

Back in April, residents fill their containers with water at outdoor taps in Sana’a.

Checkpoints, water and the children of Yemen

A boy pushes a wheelbarrow filled with jerrycans in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

A boy pushes a wheelbarrow filled with jerrycans in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen. © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1291/Yasin

My job is to ensure that more people have access to water and sanitation in Yemen, one of the most water-scarce countries in the world. After less than a month there, I had to leave Sana’a, along with other international United Nations colleagues, because of the escalation in conflict.

It is now the holy month of Ramadan and I’m back in Sana’a. Although it feels good to be back, my return comes with mixed feelings. The lively and bustling city that I left just three months ago is now deserted, except for the kilometres-long lines of cars waiting for petrol and the garbage piled up on the streets. We drive past a checkpoint, where I see a boy with a rifle, clearly too young to be holding a weapon. A bit further down the road, people queue up at a mosque to fill their jerry cans with water. Desperation is visible in their eyes.

The conflict in Yemen has brought the country to the brink of a humanitarian catastrophe. A colleague describes it as “the straw that broke the camel’s back”. Schools, hospitals, roads and bridges are damaged, and public services have collapsed. Supplies of food, fuel and medicines are critically low, and the lack of safe water and proper sanitation poses serious health risks to millions of people.

It is clear that the people of Yemen are suffering and need urgent help. And that’s exactly why I came back. My team and I are working around the clock to provide children and their families affected by the conflict with clean water and basic hygiene kits that contain necessities like soap and jerry cans.

Back in April, residents fill their containers with water at outdoor taps in Sana’a.

Back in April, residents fill their containers with water at outdoor taps in Sana’a. © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0870/Hamoud

The United Nations estimates that 80 per cent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance, a number that gives me goose bumps. But small things continue to inspire me, like the trucks on the streets of Sana’a that have started to collect garbage strewn all over, which has in part been possible because of UNICEF’s contribution of fuel to the local authorities. UNICEF is also providing fuel for over 10 cities in the country, to keep the pumps of the urban water systems operational, thereby reaching millions of people.

From time to time, emotions overwhelm me. Of course my heartbeat goes up when my bed shakes from the loud bombing nearby at night. But it affects me more when I get the news that a staff of one of our local partners was shot by a sniper while delivering water to a community, and another constructing latrines for displaced people was kidnapped for a week. At the same time, there are heroic stories of those involved in transporting supplies and fuel to pump water to areas where heavy conflict is ongoing, and where no assistance was able to reach before.

I feel a lot of respect for all of my Yemeni colleagues who continue to go out and serve those displaced while putting their lives at risk. Being back in Yemen has brought me closer to my team. I’ve begun to understand the difficult conditions people face every day, and that it hasn’t stopped us from planning big and going the extra mile. What if we could negotiate access to collect the solid waste in Aden, where a disease outbreak is looming? What if we could distribute hygiene kits to the people who are left behind in Sa’ada, because they have no means to leave the area?

Reaching these people is so important, because our biggest fear is that the children of Yemen won’t die of bullets and bombs, but of preventable diseases like diarrhoea and pneumonia. In addition to medical services and vaccinations, providing clean water, a toilet and a piece of soap can literally save a child’s life. Even if the conflict rages on, and we are denied access time and again, we will continue to try to reach out to those most in need. But most importantly, we will continue to hope that one day this conflict will end and peace will return to the people of Yemen.

Marije Broekhuijsen works in Yemen as a UNICEF Water, Sanitation and Hygiene specialist. This post was written during the month of Ramadan.

Back in April, residents fill their containers with water at outdoor taps in Sana’a.

Controles fronterizos, agua y los niños de Yemen

Un niño empuja un carro lleno de garrafas en Saná, la capital de Yemen.

Un niño empuja un carro lleno de garrafas en Saná, la capital de Yemen. © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1291/Yasin

Mi trabajo consiste en garantizar que cada vez más gente consiga acceso a agua y saneamiento en Yemen, uno de los países con mayor escasez de agua del mundo. Después de llevar menos de un mes aquí, tuve que marcharme de Saná junto con otros colegas de las Naciones Unidas a causa del empeoramiento del conflicto.

Ahora se está celebrando el mes sagrado del Ramadán y he vuelto a Saná. Aunque me alegra estar de vuelta, tengo sentimientos encontrados. La ciudad agitada y llena de vida que dejé hace tan solo tres meses ahora está desierta, excepto por las colas kilométricas de coches que esperan para echar gasolina y la basura que hay amontonada en las calles. Llegamos a un control fronterizo en el que veo a un chico con un rifle que parece demasiado joven para llevar un arma. Un poco más adelante veo una fila de personas frente a una mezquita esperando para llenar sus garrafas de agua. En sus ojos se refleja la desesperación.

El conflicto de Yemen ha llevado al país al borde de una catástrofe humanitaria. Un colega lo describe como “la gota que colma el vaso”. Escuelas, hospitales, carreteras y puentes han sufrido daños, y los servicios públicos se han colapsado. Los suministros de comida, combustible y medicinas son muy escasos, y la falta de agua potable y saneamiento adecuado expone la salud de millones de personas a riesgos muy graves.

Es evidente que los yemeníes están sufriendo y que necesitan ayuda urgente, y ese es el motivo de mi regreso. Mi equipo y yo estamos trabajando a contrarreloj para proporcionar agua y kits básicos de higiene con jabón y bidones para los niños y las familias afectadas por el conflicto.

El pasado mes de abril, los ciudadanos llenaban sus bidones de agua en los grifos de la calle en Saná.

El pasado mes de abril, los ciudadanos llenaban sus bidones de agua en los grifos de la calle en Saná. © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-0870/Hamoud

Según estimaciones de las Naciones Unidas, un 80% de la población necesita asistencia humanitaria, una cifra que me pone la piel de gallina. Pero hay pequeños detalles que me alientan, como los camiones que están empezando a pasar por las calles de Saná para recoger la basura que estaba esparcida por todas partes. En cierta medida, esto ha sido posible gracias a UNICEF, que ha proporcionado combustible no solo a las autoridades locales, sino también a más de 10 ciudades de todo el país. Esto mantiene en funcionamiento las bombonas de los sistemas de agua urbanos y permite atender a millones de personas.

De vez en cuando me siento sobrepasado por las emociones. Es inevitable que mi corazón se acelere cada vez que mi cama se mueve por la noche a causa del estruendo de alguna bomba cercana. Sin embargo, lo que más me afecta es recibir noticias sobre la muerte de un miembro del equipo de nuestros aliados locales por el disparo de un francotirador mientras repartía agua en una comunidad, o del secuestro durante una semana de otra persona que construía letrinas para gente desplazada. Al mismo tiempo, se suceden historias heroicas de gente que transporta suministros y combustible para las bombas de agua por las zonas en las que se está desarrollando el conflicto más grave, unas zonas que nunca antes habían recibido ayuda.

Siento mucho respeto por todos mis colegas yemeníes que siguen poniendo sus vidas en peligro para salir a la calle a ayudar a los desplazados. Mi vuelta a Yemen me ha unido más a mi equipo. He comenzado a entender las dificultades que la gente de aquí afronta en su día a día, y eso no nos ha frenado a la hora de hacer planes dedicando todo nuestro esfuerzo. ¿Y si lográramos negociar el acceso a la recogida de los desechos sólidos en Adén, donde podría haber un brote inminente de una enfermedad? ¿Y si pudiéramos repartir kits de higiene a aquellos que se han quedado en Sadá porque no tenían medios para marcharse?

Es muy importante lograr atender a esas personas, ya que nuestro mayor temor no es que los niños de Yemen mueran por las balas o las bombas, sino por enfermedades prevenibles como la diarrea o la neumonía. Además de las vacunas y los servicios de atención médica, proporcionar agua limpia, un aseo y una pastilla de jabón puede salvar la vida de un niño. Aunque el conflicto empeore y se nos vuelva a prohibir el acceso, seguiremos intentando atender a los más necesitados. Y aún más importante: seguiremos esperando que un día termine el conflicto y la paz vuelva a los hogares de los yemeníes.

Marije Broekhuijsen trabaja en Yemen como especialista de UNICEF en Agua, Saneamiento e Higiene. Este post se escribió durante el mes de Ramadán.

Haja Misk with her four grandchildren

Yemen: a grandmother’s plea for peace

Alhaga Misk with her four grandchildren

Alhaga Misk with her four grandchildren. (c) UNICEF Yemen/Rania Al-Zubairi

“I want nothing for myself. I just want these children to be happy and to live in peace.”

These are the simple words from Alhaga Misk, a 55-year-old grandmother who lives with her four grandchildren in a displaced persons camp in Ibb Governorate.

I met her and the children on a recent visit to Ibb. When she introduced herself and her four grandchildren, Misk explained how they had been her responsibility since their father disappeared five years ago. Their mother was visiting relatives in a nearby village and could not return safely due to the conflict. She said the frightened children held her tightly and cried because of the non-stop sounds of war. The airstrikes were targeting a military camp not too far from their home and that was what made her decide to get the children out of the village and to a safer place.

“We traveled by foot and stayed with generous people who took us in overnight,” she explains. “We finally reached Ibb, and searched for a camp. After three days of travel, we were very hungry, thirsty and tired. Our feet were worn out. I noticed a coffee shop and walked up to ask for water for the children, but the owner replied, “Where is the money? No water for you.”

“As I walked away, tears streaming down my cheeks, a young man approached us and asked what had happened,” she recounts. “He told us to wait and, moments later, he brought us water and a car to take us to a nearby hotel where we were given food, water and a blanket.”

I asked her about the children’s education, and why they were all in grade one, to which she replied, “I was too poor to send them to school. I was able to feed them by collecting bottles and selling them. Just last year, I got a job as a cleaner at a nearby school. Since there was a salary, I registered them at a school. However, the war has now interrupted their schooling and destroyed my hopes of giving them a basic education.”

As I listened my emotions ran high and tears filled my eyes. I asked the children what they wanted. Anatar, 10, replied in tears, “I want mom and I want to go back home.” Ragad, eight-years-old stood silent and shy. Roa’a, who is six-years-old, just smiled and exclaimed, “give me whatever you have,” while five-year-old Mohsen, said “I want cake!”

With the war still raging on, there is no hope for Misk and her grandchildren to return home soon. According to latest figures, one million people in Yemen have been uprooted from their homes by the conflict. Many of them have similar or even more horrible stories like Misk.

Rania Al-Zubairi is a Communication for Development Officer working at UNICEF Yemen

On 6 April, a large ball of fire and a large plume of smoke – resulting from an air strike that hit a military site on Faj Attan Mountain, high above Sana’a, the capital – rises skyward and begins to spread over the city below.

In April 2015 in Yemen, localized conflict among government forces, militants, tribal fighters and other parties since mid-March has spread to many parts of the country. Armed conflict has continued to intensify, and airstrikes, which began on 26 March, have affected 18 of the country’s 22 governorates. The escalating violence has taken a significant toll on civilians. By 12 April, an estimated 364 civilians had been killed and 681 had been injured. At least 77 children had also been killed and 44 had been injured. Infrastructure has also been destroyed, damaged or disrupted as a result of the fighting, including airports and bridges, power and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) supply, as well as hospitals, educational and religious institutions, factories, farmlands and local markets. Homes are being directly affected by airstrikes and armed clashes, particularly in the south. The intense fighting has caused large-scale displacement, forcing about 150,000 people to flee their homes. Many of the displaced are believed to be staying primarily with relatives or acquaintances, and others are sheltering in schools. However, many of the most-vulnerable are unable to flee to safety. Insecurity, the closure of ports and other restrictions have significantly exacerbated humanitarian needs and hampered access and the delivery of vital aid to vulnerable communities. Food insecurity is rising, with food prices estimated at 40 per cent – and even higher in some areas. The number of people who are food insecure is now estimated at 12 million– a 13 per cent increase since the start of the crisis. Fuel, urgently needed to pump water and to maintain services at hospitals and other critical facilities facing frequent power outages, has run o

اليمن: صرخة جدة من أجل السلام

الحجة مسك مع أحفادها الأربعة

الحجة مسك مع أحفادها الأربعة

“أنا لا أريد شيئا لنفسي. كل ما أريده هو أن يكون هؤلاء الأطفال سعداء وأن يعيشوا بسلام”.

هذه هي الكلمات البسيطة التي قالتها الحاجّة مسك، جدة عمرها 55 سنة، تعيش مع أحفادها الأربعة في مخيم للنازحين في محافظة إب.

التقيت بها مع أحفادها خلال زيارتي الأخيرة إلى إب، حيث وضحت مسك عندما عرّفت عن نفسها وعن أحفادها الأربعة أنها أصبحت مسؤولة عنهم منذ أن اختفى والدهم قبل 5 سنوات. وأن والدتهم ذهبت لتزور أقاربها في قرية قريبة ولم تستطع أن تعود بسبب النزاع. قالت لي أن الأطفال مصابون بالهلع، وهم يتشبثون بها ويبكون بسبب أصوات الحرب المستمرة. كانت الغارات الجوية تستهدف المخيم العسكري القريب من منزلهم، مما دفعها إلى الخروج مع أحفادها من القرية بحثا عن مكان آمن.

توضح مسك قائلة:”سافرنا مشيا على الأقدام وكنا نقضي الليل عند من يتكرّم باستضافتنا”، وتضيف: “وصلنا أخيرا إلى إب وبحثنا عن المخيم. بعد ثلاثة أيام من الترحال كنا نشعر بالجوع والعطش والتعب. ناهيك عن أقدامنا المهترئة. انتبهت لوجود مقهى وتوجهت نحوه لأطلب ماء للأطفال، ولكن صاحب المحل رد عليّ قائلا: “أين المال؟ لن أعطيك الماء”.

وتستطرد مستذكرة: “فيما عدت أعقابي بدأت الدموع تسيل على وجنتي، وعندها اقترب منا شاب صغير واستفسر عما حصل. طلب منا أن ننتظر، وعاد بعد لحظات بالماء وبسيارة لتأخذنا إلى فندق قريب أعطونا فيه الطعام والماء وبطانية”.

عندما سألتها عن تعليم الأطفال، وعن سبب كونهم جميعا في الصف الأول، قالت مسك: “كنت أفقر من أن أرسلهم إلى المدرسة، فأنا كنت أتدبر طعامهم من خلال جمع الزجاجات الفارغة وبيعها. حصلت السنة الماضية على وظيفة كعاملة نظافة في مدرسة قريبة، وبعد أن أصبحت أتقاضى راتبا سجلتهم في المدرسة. ولكن الحرب الآن عطلت دراستهم ودمرت آمالي في تأمين تعليم أساسي لهم”.

اختلجتني مشاعر قوية وبدأت الدموع تنهمر من عيني. سألت الأطفال عما يريدونه، فرد عنتر، 10 سنوات، والدموع تملئ عينيه: “أريد أمي، أريدها أن تعود إلى المنزل”. بينما وقفت رغد، 8 سنوات، بخجل وصمت. أما رؤى، 6 سنوات، فابتسمت وقالت: “أعطني كل ما لديك، أيا كان”، بينما قال محسن، 5 سنوات، “أريد كعكة”!

ومع استمرار الحرب، لا أمل لمسك وأحفادها بالعودة إلى المنزل، فبحسب الإحصاءات الأخيرة، تم اقتلاع أكثر من مليون يمني من ديارهم بسب النزاع، وهناك الكثير من القصص المريعة كقصة مسك.


رانيا الزبيري مسؤولة الاتصال من أجل التنمية، تعمل في مكتب اليونيسف في اليمن.

A health worker tends to a newborn baby. The health care facilities that remain open have few medicines to treat children, and essential medical supplies such as bandages, syringes and other crucial equipment are running low.

Health care services crumble in Yemen

A health worker tends to a newborn baby. The health care facilities that remain open have few medicines to treat children, and essential medical supplies such as bandages, syringes and other crucial equipment are running low.

A health worker tends to a newborn baby. The health care facilities that remain open have few medicines to treat children, and essential medical supplies such as bandages, syringes and other crucial equipment are running low. Still from film footage.

It has been another busy day for Dr. Ahlam Al-Maqtari and her colleagues at the Al-Sabeen hospital in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a.

Working tirelessly for long hours without a break, Dr. Al-Maqtari continues to treat injured children and other patients with medical complications who are ferried in from all parts of the city.

“In the first week of the conflict, itself, we received three cases of women with complications during delivery. Two of them died of excessive bleeding because they couldn’t come to the hospital in time as a result of the fighting and lack of transport,” Dr. Al-Maqtari says.

The situation across the country is similar. The challenges for Yemenis seeking medical services are enormous. To date, over 470,000 children under 5 have been directly affected by the closure of 158 health facilities. Those facilities that are open have few medicines to treat children, and essential medical supplies such as bandages, syringes and other crucial equipment are running low. There is also very little fuel to run hospitals and health centres.

“There is no electricity at the hospital. We have no oxygen cylinders. How are we supposed to operate? We have anaesthesia to apply and infant incubators with no oxygen. How can you carry out surgery without electricity to run the equipment? It makes you feel powerless, as if your hands are cut off, while you are expected to treat all these patients,” says the exasperated Dr. Al-Maqtari.

Nearly three months into the conflict, Yemen faces a humanitarian catastrophe with 21 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.

Nearly three months into the conflict, Yemen faces a humanitarian catastrophe with 21 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Still from film footage.

Humanitarian catastrophe
Nearly three months into the conflict, Yemen faces a humanitarian catastrophe with 21 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. UNICEF also projects that, with the fast deteriorating basic social services, 2.5 million children are at risk of suffering from diarrhoea, 1.3 million from pneumonia and nearly 280,000 from severe and acute malnutrition over the next 12 months. The conflict has ground Yemen – already one of the poorest countries in the Middle East – to a halt.

“Every day, children wake up to the horrendous sounds of bombing and street fighting, and what’s worse is that many of these children don’t have enough food to eat, they don’t have safe water, they’re poorly nourished and they can’t access the health clinics and hospitals they really need to,” said Jeremy Hopkins, officiating Representative, UNICEF Yemen.

Since the conflict escalated in March, UNICEF and partners have managed to bring in essential medical and water, sanitation and hygiene supplies regularly, including surgical kits, syringes, medicines, hygiene kits and water purification tablets, to keep women and children alive. But all this is a drop in the ocean. Until the restrictions on commercial import of fuel and other food supplies that over 90 per cent of Yemenis depend on are lifted, millions on Yemenis are at risk of a humanitarian disaster, as health and hygiene facilities are fast shutting down.

Dr. Nashwan Al-Husami works at the Al-Thawra hospital in Taiz, a city that has seen increased fighting and civilian casualties in the past weeks.

“The Obstetrics and Gynaecology section is closed now, because we have a shortage of staff, mostly as a result of the near-daily bombings and fighting,” says the doctor.

“Thanks to UNICEF, we received basic medical supplies so the hospital continues to provide services to mothers and children.”

Back in Al-Sabeen hospital in Sana’a, Dr. Al-Maqtari and her colleagues gear up for another round of long hours at the partially functional operation theatre as the loudening wail of a siren announces another ambulance carrying more patients.

A health worker tends to a newborn baby. The health care facilities that remain open have few medicines to treat children, and essential medical supplies such as bandages, syringes and other crucial equipment are running low.

Los servicios de atención sanitaria se desmoronan en Yemen

Un trabajador sanitario atiende a un recién nacido. Los establecimientos que continúan abiertos disponen de pocos medicamentos para tratar a los niños, y comienzan a escasear los suministros médicos esenciales, como vendas y jeringuillas, y otro material de importancia crucial

Una trabajadora sanitaria atiende a un recién nacido. Los establecimientos que continúan abiertos disponen de pocos medicamentos para tratar a los niños, y comienzan a escasear los suministros médicos esenciales, como vendas y jeringuillas, y otro material de importancia crucial. Imagen extraída de video de archivo.

Este ha sido otro día de ajetreo para la Dra. Ahlam Al-Maqtari y sus colegas del hospital de Al-Sabeen, en la capital de Yemen, Sana’a.

Infatigable, la Dra. Al-Maqtari trabaja largas horas sin descanso para dar tratamiento a los niños y niñas heridos y a otros pacientes que presentan complicaciones médicas llegados de todas partes de la ciudad.

“Ya en la primera semana de conflicto, recibimos tres casos de mujeres con partos complicados. Dos de ellas murieron por la pérdida excesiva de sangre, porque no pudieron llegar a tiempo al hospital debido a los enfrentamientos y a la falta de transporte”, dice la Dra. Al-Maqtari.

La situación es similar en todo el país. Los yemeníes que precisan servicios de atención médica enfrentan dificultades enormes. Hasta la fecha, más de 470.000 niños menores de 5 años han resultado directamente afectados por el cierre de 158 establecimientos sanitarios. Y los establecimientos que continúan abiertos disponen de pocos medicamentos para tratar a la infancia, y comienzan a escasear los suministros médicos esenciales, como vendas y jeringuillas, y otro material de importancia crucial. También falta combustible para el normal funcionamiento de los hospitales y los centros de salud.

“No hay electricidad en el hospital. No tenemos botellas de oxígeno. ¿Cómo vamos a funcionar así? Tenemos que usar las incubadoras para los recién nacidos y aplicar las anestesias sin oxígeno. ¿Cómo se puede operar sin la electricidad necesaria para que los equipos funcionen? Uno se siente impotente, como si le hubieran cortado las manos. Y se supone que tenemos que tratar a todos estos pacientes”, cuenta, exasperada, la Dra. Al-Maqtari.

Casi tres meses después del inicio del conflicto, hay 21 millones de personas que precisan asistencia humanitaria: Yemen está al borde de una catástrofe humanitaria.

Casi tres meses después del inicio del conflicto, hay 21 millones de personas que precisan ayuda humanitaria: Yemen está al borde de una catástrofe humanitaria. Imagen extraída de video de archivo.

Catástrofe humanitaria
Casi tres meses después del inicio del conflicto, hay 21 millones de personas que precisan asistencia humanitaria: Yemen está al borde de una catástrofe humanitaria. Según proyecciones de UNICEF, al ritmo actual de deterioro de los servicios sociales básicos, 2,5 millones de niños corren el riesgo de padecer diarrea, 1,3 millones están en peligro de sufrir neumonía y casi 280.000 podrían padecer malnutrición en los próximos 12 meses. El conflicto ha causado un parón en Yemen, que ya de por sí es uno de los países más pobres de Oriente Medio.

“Cada día, niños y niñas se despiertan al son terrible de los bombardeos y los enfrentamientos callejeros; y lo peor es que muchos de estos niños no tienen comida suficiente, carecen de agua potable, se alimentan mal y no pueden acceder a las clínicas de salud y hospitales cuando realmente lo necesitan”, explica Jeremy Hopkins, representante en funciones de la oficina de UNICEF Yemen.

Desde la escalada del conflicto en el mes de marzo, UNICEF y sus aliados se han organizado para proveer periódicamente al país suministros médicos y de agua saneamiento e higiene esenciales –por ejemplo, material quirúrgico, jeringuillas, medicinas, productos de higiene y pastillas para la depuración del agua–, a fin de mantener con vida a la infancia y las mujeres. Pero todo esto no es más que una gota de agua en el océano. Hasta que no se levanten las restricciones que impiden la importación comercial del combustible y los suministros alimenticios de los que dependen más del 90% de los yemeníes, millones de personas de este país están en peligro de sufrir un desastre humanitario como consecuencia del rápido colapso de los servicios de salud y de higiene.

La Dra. Nashwan Al-Husami trabaja en el hospital Al-Thawra de Taiz, ciudad donde en las últimas semanas han aumentado los enfrentamientos y el número de muertes de civiles.

“La sección de obstetricia y ginecología está ya cerrada debido a la escasez de personal, que en su mayor parte se debe a los bombardeos y los enfrentamientos casi diarios”, cuenta la doctora.

“Gracias a UNICEF, hemos recibido los suministros médicos básicos que permiten que el hospital continúe prestando servicio a la infancia y a las madres”.

De vuelta en el hospital Al-Sabeen de Sana’a, la Dra. Al-Maqtari y sus colegas se preparan para otra larga jornada en un quirófano que funciona sólo parcialmente. El sonido in crescendo de una sirena anuncia la llegada de otra ambulancia que transporta nuevos pacientes.

On 28 April, a guard walks past what remains of Ibn Sina School, in Sana’a, the capital. The school was heavily damaged during an air strike that hit the building next to the school. The impact of the blast crumbled the outer wall of the schoolyard and left classrooms covered in rubble and broken glass. The school, where 1,500 girls studied in primary and secondary classes, is closed indefinitely.

By 30 April 2015 in Yemen, escalating conflict continued to exact a heavy toll on children and their families. Some 300,000 people have been internally displaced. Casualties have reached 1,244, including 115 children, and 5,044 people have been injured, including 172 children. Prior to the current crisis, 15.9 million people – including 7.9 million children – were already in need of humanitarian assistance. The conflict has left many schools closed and nearly 2 million children unable to attend classes. UNICEF has verified that at least 30 schools have been damaged by fighting, exacerbating an already dire situation. Even before the recent conflict, 1.6 million children were already out of school. The country’s humanitarian crisis is also deepening because fuel shortages are reaching critical levels, and access to food and clean water are becoming more difficult by the day. The international airport in Sana’a, the capital, was bombed on 28 April, leaving both landing and take-off runways destroyed; this has prevented humanitarian supplies from getting into the country by air. The airport in the city of Hodeidah was also attacked on the same day, causing the same level of damage. Seaports are now the only viable entry point for humanitarian supplies. UNICEF support spans such vital sectors as nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health, child protection and education. UNICEF has appealed for US$88.1 million to cover responses through December 2015. © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1126/Mahmoud

Delivering under fire in Yemen

In late April, a man walks past what remains of a school in Sana’a, the capital of Yemen.

In late April, a man walks past what remains of a school in Sana’’a, the capital of Yemen. © UNICEF/NYHQ2015-1126/Mahmoud

I recently visited a displaced person’s camp in Ibb city, in the south of Yemen. There I met families – around 25 in total – who have been uprooted from their homes by the conflict and who are now staying at a temporary shelter in the Al-shaheed Alsabahi School in the city.

At 12.45pm, while I was chatting to the family of a newborn child, there was an airstrike. It was a decent distance away from the shelter, but the sheer force of the explosion shook the very foundations of the school. Panic and fear spread rapidly as mothers and children huddled to protect themselves, preempting more attacks. Weeping families, terrified infants and helpless volunteers waited for the air raid to pass – not for the first time in recent months.

The new mother, Amal, having given birth less than a week ago, kept chanting prayers in the local dialect, her tearful calls for mercy echoing through the camp. The chant “Yarab, Yarab” seemed to give her some courage as we tried hard to comfort her. An older woman sitting just outside the classroom stared blankly at all the worried faces and kept mumbling in an almost prophetic voice, “What is written, we will see it, Alhamedallah, Alhamedallah”.

Things only got worse when the children started howling in terror, huddled in groups downstairs, crying out loudly for their families. Some of our volunteers helped to calm the children, but our words of courage were drowned out by the sound of explosions outside. We all felt and understood the futility of trying to ease the children’s panic in the face of such frequent air strikes.

In another part of the school, Aisha, a mother of four, fainted twice and had to be revived. So many families like hers have been left feeling extremely vulnerable in shelters like these, having fled their homes to be housed in places that are still too close to the bombs. She kept waking up and insisting on leaving the school immediately with her children in order to protect them from another round of bombings. Even as she hugged them tight, she pleaded “let me leave, there’s no safe place, everywhere will soon be under attack”. Some of our female volunteers managed to soothe her frayed nerves by explaining gently that she and her children were safe from the raids inside this shelter and that the UNICEF team were there to help keep her family safe.

For me, I felt helpless, watching the panic spread. I can’t undo this war nor can I make the bombs disappear. But as a Yemeni woman and most importantly as a UNICEF staff member, I have hope and I will do my best to assist people. This war must end soon for all of us, so that we can all return home to a life without the fear of air raids, without the sound of explosions and gunshots and wailing children punctuating our lives.

Rania Al-Zubairi is a Communication for Development Officer working at the UNICEF Taiz Field office.