Yasser al Hibshi, 38, lost his house and three of his children in one of the first air raids launched by the Saudi-led coalition on the night of 26 March, 2015. He revisits his neighbourhood and speaks on the site of the ruins of his house about that fateful night.

"An air strike hit us on 26 March, 2015, in the first strikes on Yemen. It was between 2am and 2.25am, I was asleep and can’t tell you the exact time.
"Three of my children were killed: my daughter Aisha, 11, and my sons Ammar, 17, and Alaa al Deen, 14.
"I was taken by an ambulance to hospital where I stayed for more than 15 days. I was injured in my head and have two parts of my spine broken. I was in a coma and had no idea what had happened, no idea that my children had died.
"My relatives used to visit me in hospital and I thought my children were in the intensive care unit, not in the morgue. I thought they were OK. I didn’t know until I had surgery in my spine. I got out of surgery and after some five days they started giving me the news gradually. They were gradually telling me this neighbor has passed away, the other neighbour has passed away… I then asked them directly: where are my children? Then they told me that my children had passed away. Three of them. There were some 27 others from Al Muallem’s family, Al Hadrami and Al Jermuzee… all of them were my neighbours. Until this day I expect them to show up.
"I took me more than five years to save money and build this house. We lived in it for around 15 years. I had a stable life… my children, my house, my car, my shop … It’s all gone now. I used to have a grocery shop, a car, and I was coping… my kids were studying…. Today we have to pay rental fees and suffering without any source of livelihood. I have no source of income now except for the help I get from good people. Some NGOs reached out to us but now we’re not getting anything. I still have spinal injuries… If I fully recovered I would look for work, but it’s taking long. I feel a lot of pain if I had to pick up something heavy.
"We won’t die of hunger because some relatives and friends are helping us. I’ve sold my car and my shop so I can cover my children’s needs.
"Yes my children still go to school. One, Najm al Deen, is in the ninth grade. The other is living with his grandpa because he’s still traumatized. He’s staying at my father’s house to live away from the tragedy and overcome the trauma of what happened to us. He was not in the house during the air strike so we try to make him forget what happened to his siblings, because the neighbourhood would always remind him of this tragedy. We were thinking of sending my other son with him but he has not yet fully recovered… he still has shrapnel in his body. Now he’s getting treatment and continues going to school.
"I want to tell the world that we’ve had enough of the war. There is too much tragedy, so many families have been wiped out, for what? We hope that God will deliver Yemen and the Yemenis out of this situation.
We hope to get out of this crisis."

Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC
Read caption Yasser al Hibshi, 38, lost his house and three of his children in one of the first air raids launched by the Saudi-led coalition on the night of 26 March, 2015. Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC

Yemen: Left isolated and starving

Alvhild Strømme|Published 26. Mar 2017
Two years of full-scale war has driven Yemen to the verge of famine. 17 million people, or two out of three Yemenis, do not know from where they will get their next meal.

“People have started dying quietly in their homes,” said the Norwegian Refugee Council's Secretary General, Jan Egeland. “We are witnessing ruthless war tactics against civilians by both parties to the conflict, resulting in civilians starving.”

Mohammed (15) starved to death

More than three million women and children are already suffering from acute malnutrition in the poorest country in the region. Earlier this month, hunger took the life of 15-year-old Mohammed in Taiz. From being one of almost half a million children at immediate risk of starvation, he became one of the tens of thousands making up the grim statistics of the silent deaths in the poor country. Mohammed died alone in his room while his father was out looking for some odd jobs to get food for his children.

“I would rather be killed”

Fatima, a displaced mother of five children living in an abandoned building in Amran said: “I would rather be killed by an airstrike than see my children die slowly of starvation,” she told NRC.

Without aid, the situation in Yemen would be even worse, but humanitarian organisations alone cannot meet the enormous scale of the needs.
JAN EGELAND, the Norwegian Refugee Council's Secretary General

“Without aid, the situation in Yemen would be even worse, but humanitarian organisations alone cannot meet the enormous scale of the needs,” Egeland said.

Yemen imports 90 per cent of its food. Restrictions on imports mean that food is not coming in in the volume needed. Severe food shortages and a complete collapse of the economy have left humanitarian organisations trying to fill the gap left by a crumbling commercial sector Aid is difficult to deliver on the ground, with organisations facing constant bureaucratic constraints and regular interference by authorities as they try to provide assistance. 

Mahmoud Zeid and his wife Sabah speak fo the day they had to flee their home in July 2015 following an airstrike close to their neighbourhood in Jabal Al Nugm.
Zeid used to work as a tailor but since the war and blockade started he no longer has a job.
Sabah suffers from kidney failure.
They have six children.
NRC provides them with food aid in a project funded by WFP.

Mahmoud said: "Before the war I worked as a tailor. After the war I lost my job. I spent four months without work, work went down drastically, maybe three or four days and then nothing. This is largely because of the electricity situation and the lack of money in people's pockets, there's no movement, it's as if life stopped.

“This is all caused by the war, of course. We have to survive. There is no food, no spending money like there used to be, we get a plate or two of food and get on with it. Even then we don't even have cooking gas.

“I was out of the house with my son Mohammed. We were waiting in the queue for cooking gas, there were some 5,000 cylinders waiting to be refilled. At one point I heard a huge explosion in our neighbourhood, but all of Sana'a was being bombed. I was with Mohammed at the gas distribution point and planes were bombing the area. The planes were bombing everywhere. Then we got missiles raining on us, I don't know what they were, Tomahawks? Scud? 

“Here in Nuqm it was hell. The sky above us was covered with debris and shrapnel and smoke. Everything was up in the sky. It was hell.

“My son Mohammad was afraid for his mother. I grabbed him so that we sought cover behind houses. Then we rushed towards home. When we arrived at the foot of the hill to our neighbourhood I let go of our gas cylinder and tried reaching home, but couldn't get through. Everyone was fleeing in a panic, families with children. They fled their houses.

“My wife was very distressed. My daughter Tahani was outside. When I arrived a neighbour told me my daughter was together with his so I told him to take care of her while I went inside. I entered and it was a disaster. It was full of dust and debris. My wife was very tired because of her illness (kidney failure). I gathered them (my wife and children) and we decided to walk towards a school.”

Sabha said: "We went on foot. We took nothing with us, we had not time. During the bombing I was exhausted. I told them let's go to the school. We were too afraid. I felt paralysed till we reached the school. When we reached the school we could hear the missiles. We were a lot of people in one classroom. There were missiles and loud explosions. We were afraid.

“We came back home (after a few months) and we were happy to be back, one rests when he's back home. But I had a lot of cleaning to do. A lot of repairs, so many things were damaged. There was dust and debris all over the place. Everything was scattered on the floor.

Mahmoud said: "Our sewage pipes were destroyed. The windows were gone and we had stones that came in with the blast. This room had a lot of cracks. It was as if the world turned upside down. Our house was damaged by all the blast of the explosions. Our windows were gone, our furniture, the television is gone, the roof has been damaged, all the glass has been broken. We had glass flying from far away into our house.

“I have five daughters and one son. In this situation what kind of future can we talk about? A future for children? It's all bleak. It's a black canvas. This blots out the future of millions of children as regards their health, education, nutrition... nutrition affects growth. These problems brought by the violence affect our children. Children are traumatised by this war, how can we speak of the future? If this conflict goes on it's a future of blood and darkness."

Photo and story collected by Karl Schembri/NRC
Read caption DISPLACED: Mahmoud Zeid and his wife Sabah and their six children fled their home in July 2015 following an airstrike close to their neighbourhood in Jabal Al Nugm. Zeid used to work as a tailor but since the war and blockade started he no longer has a job. NRC provides them with food aid in a project funded by WFP. Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC

Deadly blockade

“We as humanitarians are faced with a blockade imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition that hinders aid from reaching Yemen, in addition to security and bureaucratic barriers to deliver lifesaving assistance within the country. We are ready to respond, but without an end to the fighting, Yemenis will continue to suffer, and it will only get worse,” Egeland said.

There are now mounting concerns that the ongoing fighting could halt the supply of lifesaving goods through the country’s main port in Al Hudaydah at the Red Sea coast. A staggering 70 per cent of Yemen’s imports enter through the port, making it the most important lifeline for commercial and humanitarian supplies into the country.

Read caption FOOD AID: Sabah uses paper and rubbish collected from the streets to cook as they can't afford cooking gas. NRC provides them with food aid in a project funded by WFP. “This is all caused by the war, of course. We have to survive. There is no food, no spending money like there used to be, we get a plate or two of food and get on with it. Even then we don't even have cooking gas», says Mahmoud. Photo: Karl Schembri/NRC

   

“Now we are also extremely concerned that the country’s main port will cease functioning and Yemen’s last lifeline will be lost. Suggestions that adequate alternative routes could be found if Al Hudaydah port were to be closed are just fantasy,” Egeland said. “Closing that port will literally mean cutting off a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.”

The Security Council shamefully silent

Governments that have the influence and leverage to change the situation are also to blame for their tacit, and at times direct, complicity. It has been more than one and a half years since the UN Security Council produced a meaningful new resolution on Yemen

The UN Security Council has been shamefully absent on Yemen.
JAN EGELAND, the Norwegian Refugee Council's Secretary General


“The UN Security Council has been shamefully absent on Yemen,” Egeland said. “While children die, world leaders appear to be sitting idly by, as if this was inevitable. This is all man-made. Some governments that should have concentrated more on promoting peace have rather poured fuel onto the fire. They must insist on a political solution to the conflict and on keeping land, sea and air routes into Yemen open. A continuation of the blockade will starve an entire nation.”

Key facts:

• Some 19 million people – over two thirds of the total Yemeni population – require some form of humanitarian assistance or protection to meet their basic needs.

• More than 3 million people have been displaced by violence.

• Around 17 million people suffer from food insecurity, including more than 3 million children, pregnant and lactating women suffering from acute malnutrition.

• An additional 462,000 children face immediate risk of death from severe acute malnutrition.

• Achieving all targets in the Humanitarian Response Plan will cost an estimated USD 2.1 billion. Only 8 per cent of that funding has been received thus far.

NRC in Yemen:

• In 2016, NRC reached 1,2 million people with lifesaving assistance.

• NRC’s assistance in Yemen includes food, shelter, water, and education.

• NRC serves people in the governorates of Amran, Hajja, Taiz, Al Hudaydah, Lahj, Aden and Amanet Al Asima.

Read more about NRC in Yemen