Yemen: ‘It was raining rockets’
By Holly Frew, Emergency Communications Manager at CARE
“It was 7 a.m. and I was having breakfast with my mother-in law and four of my daughters,” said Hammama, recounting what began as a seemingly ordinary day in Yemen.
Only things are not ordinary in Yemen, and on that day, extraordinary events changed Hammama’s life forever.
“We heard the aircraft hovering low overhead and airstrikes in the surrounding area, but that was a sound we had gotten used to. We didn’t think we would be a target. Then all of a sudden, we felt a violent explosion as a bomb hit part of our home. The entire house shook. Shattered glass sliced the leg of my 7-year-old daughter and the scalp of my teenage daughter. My husband, son and 10-year-old daughter were asleep in another room where the airstrike hit directly. They must have died instantly.
“We fled the house with only the clothes on our backs. It was raining rockets, but we continued to run. We ran with my injured daughters until we reached a hospital where we stayed for several days and now we are here in Amran, away from our village and our home. My husband was the sole provider for our family. Now we have nothing,” said Hammama, a war widow, tears flowing from her eyes.
This is a common story for families from Sa’dah, a district in Yemen near the Saudi Arabian border that over the past year has become a frontline for airstrikes and ground-fighting. As CARE’s emergency communications manager, I recently spent three weeks in the country collecting such horror stories.
Of my recent deployments – I went to Nepal after the earthquake last year, to South Sudan, and I’ve been to the Middle East three times in the last year to get an update on CARE’s work with Syrian refugees there – Yemen hit me hardest. The country now has some of the largest humanitarian needs in the world. Just a year since this conflict escalated, 21.2 million people– 82% of the population– are in need of some sort of assistance.
Many families from Sa’dah have fled violence several times, depleting their life savings in a sometimes empty search for safety. People have lost their homes, their family members and their livelihoods. And now they are dependent on aid.
“We fled with much of our village to a nearby cave in the mountain for safety,” said Houda, who also is from Sa’dah. “Our home was destroyed, and the violence was so heavy we could only leave the cave to cook, so we decided to sell our goats to have enough money to get to a safer place. It cost 50,000 Yemeni rial (US$200) to reach Sana’a, where we stayed in a school for four months with other displaced families.”
Houda was pregnant when she fled. During the 150-mile journey to Sana’a, she began to bleed. With no access to medical care, she lost her baby.
In spite of such unspeakable pain and loss, people like Hammama and Houda kindle hope. They patch together the pieces of their lives the war has not ripped from them. And they are getting help to survive during this impossible time.
CARE, for example, offers emergency cash assistance to families like Hammama’s and Houda’s so that they can buy food and pay rent for the temporary homes they have found.
“I’ve cried so many tears,” said Houda. “Sometimes I look at my children and I just cry. But I find my hope in God and I must go on for them. I just hope the war will finally stop. Life will be ok if the war stops.”