Yemen: "We Don't Know Where to Go"

Jean-Pierre Amigo/MSF

"I Had Never Heard Such Explosions in My Life"

Here, a nurse working in a Yemeni hospital supported by Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) describes his experience after airstrikes in Al-Dhale' Governorate, Yemen.

“I had never heard such explosions in my life. I didn’t understand right away that these were airstrikes, but I remembered hearing planes earlier. I was afraid; I felt that bombs exploded next to me . . . I was shaking. After that I was suffering from a severe headache and felt as if I would go into a coma, because when I left [the] MSF-supported hospital in Al-Dhale’ Governorate, where I work, I couldn’t find any transport to go back home.

People were on the streets in front of the hospital, disoriented [and] confused. When I finally managed to get transportation, it was a small public bus. I was asking the driver to drive as fast as he could to leave the area.

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After that incident, I decided to take a couple of days off and stay home with my family, but I couldn’t stay home for so long because my work is our only source of income. This incident affected me badly; now I start shivering and trembling even when I hear a gunshot or any sound of explosions. For example, when I’m climbing the stairs in the house or the hospital and someone slams the door downstairs, I might even fall unconscious from that because of fear.

I’m not sure for how long I’ll be working in the hospital or with MSF; I prefer to be home with my family where it’s safe and away from the airstrikes and fights, instead of working in a hospital at the frontlines. I’m too afraid of being here.”

"We Don't Know Where to Go"

Jasmin Mohammed Ali is a teacher in the primary school in Qataba. Here, she and her sister Asia Mohammed Ali discusses daily life since the conflict erupted.

“Because of the ongoing crisis, the school I [Jasmin] work in is closed; it has been closed for three months. We only finished the first term and had to stop during the second term. I haven’t been paid for the last month. Recently, the school (which was luckily empty at the time) was affected by the airstrikes, as it is close to the central security office which was targeted; all the windows of the school were shattered into pieces.

Since the new crisis in Yemen started things have become much harder. It is harder to get food and water. It is hard to get food as many shops have closed. Some Yemeni families depend completely on the work in the khat market [khat is a plant native to the Horn of Africa and Arabian Peninsula that is chewed for its stimulant effects]. If there is bombing or shelling close by, everyone runs away from the khat market and business is lost.

Our father and brother work in the khat market. If they cannot work [there], they won’t have enough money to buy food for the family. Prices of food, especially basic food, have increased dramatically. For example, twenty liters of cooking oil used to be 5,000 Yemeni Rial (YER), now they have to pay 9,500 YER. 15 kilograms of sugar used to be 12,000 YER, now they have to pay 18,000 YER.

Lack of Water is the Biggest Challenge

Water represents everything and without water there is no life. There isn’t any running water anymore in Qataba, as the main water facility for the town and the surrounding villages stopped working due to a fuel shortage. We have no water in our house and cannot fill up the tanks either.

There is only one water well in Qataba town that has good water for drinking and is for free. If this well is not working we would walk to another well [at the] main water facility. This trip usually takes between three to four hours round trip by foot. If we go there, we cannot bring that many containers as we can only carry one container, it’s very heavy. Unfortunately, this borehole isn’t working for the moment due to the fuel issue as well.

Meanwhile, the main well in Qataba is becoming very crowded and women in town fill their containers with a multitude of personal hoses. That would take a long time to fill up all the containers.

We couldn’t go to the well today, as it was too crowded. Water trucks are still available but it is only used by rich people, one water truck costs 30,000 YER for 6,000 liters and it only lasts for about one to two weeks depending on the size of the family.

The Impact of Airstrikes

Airstrikes and shelling [are] making us terrified and we can’t sleep well. Last night, the kids were too afraid, as the shelling and fighting was very close by.

We have been thinking about fleeing Qataba, but the problem is that we are 26 family members living in one house. We don’t know where to go.

It might be better to stay in Qataba since we have a home here. We don’t own a house in any of the surrounding villages where it would be quieter. We have relatives in Damt district in Al-Dhale’, which could be an option. If the situation deteriorates, half of the family might go to Damt with the other half staying in Qataba. If the bombing and shelling continue and if the frontline moves closer, we might decide to leave.

MSF in Al-Dhale

MSF provides lifesaving health care services in the Yemeni Ministry of Health (MoH)’s Al-Nasser Hospital in Al-Dhale’ District, in southwestern Yemen. This support includes a twenty-four-hour emergency room, surgery, post-operative care, sterilization, laboratory, infection control, health care waste management, and referrals.

MSF also supports Al-Azarik Health Center in the emergency room, antenatal and postnatal care, family planning, normal deliveries, routine vaccination, nutrition, and referrals to Al-Nasser Hospital. In Qataba, MSF supports the twenty-four-hour emergency room, observation room, laboratory, and health care waste management in the MoH Al-Salam Hospital. In the last month, MSF expanded its activities to support the outpatient department, nutrition, and antenatal care as well. MSF also provides potable water to 25,000 people through the unique suitable borehole in Qataba town.

MSF also supports several health centers in Al-Jaffea and Al-Habilain Hospitals with medical supplies and equipment.

Since the beginning of 2015, the MSF project in Al-Dhale’ has received 10,317 patients in the emergency room and 1,232 injured, 490 of whom were war-wounded. MSF also provided general consultations to 11,206 patients in the region.

This water bore hole is the last one working in the whole area - including rural area. Rural open wells are now in use for drinking water as other boreholes - including pumping stations - do not have fuel anymore.
Jean-Pierre Amigo/MSF