Yemenis have always suffered from a lack in basic services such as electricity cuts and water shortages, but the war causing consecutive days of electricity outage has intensified their suffering and put the lives of patients at hospitals at risk.
Hundreds of people have been reportedly killed in fighting in Yemen since Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against the country on March 26. Backed by its Gulf Arab allies, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan and Saudi Arabia started an airstrike operation, dubbed Decisive Storm, against Houthi fighters who took control of Yemen in January.
Although Operation Decisive Storm airstrikes are intended to bomb military facilities and weapon depots to quell the Houthi rebels supported by ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh, the strikes have resulted in a lot of death, displacement and destruction across the country. Despite the massive number of strikes over the past three weeks, the Houthi/Saleh brutal aggression has spread to the south and intensified, particularly in Aden, killing many civilians and destroying residential neighbourhoods as well.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs the “conflict has taken a significant toll on civilians.”
Food insecurity is rising. The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that the number of food insecure people in Yemen has increased to 12 million people – a 13 per cent rise since the start of the crisis. Prior to the escalation of the conflict, over 90 per cent of Yemen’s staple food was imported, but the closure of ports and other restrictions on imports have decreased availability.
Fuel has run out in many areas. Where fuel is available, prices have skyrocketed – Oxfam estimates that fuel prices have quadrupled in some locations. Fuel is urgently needed to pump water from the ground and to maintain services at hospitals and other critical facilities facing frequent power outages.
Even before this war started, Yemen has been facing a humanitarian crisis. About 16 million people, or more than 61 per cent of the population, required humanitarian assistance by the end of 2014.
The UN report explains:
The current escalation will significantly exacerbate needs among many of these already vulnerable people, in addition to affecting people who were not previously in need of humanitarian assistance.
Basic services in Yemen are on the verge of collapse. The Government is largely unable to pay civil servant salaries, which is having a direct impact on the provision of basic services. Increasing reports have been received of health and nutrition facilities closing or drastically curtailing services in affected areas, particularly in the south and in Sa’ada. Schooling has also been suspended for over 1.5 million children since the crisis began.
Oxfam condemned the Saudi led coalition airstrikes for bombing its warehouse containing vital humanitarian aid and drinking water. Oxfam's country director in Yemen said in a statement:
This is an absolute outrage particularly when one considers that we have shared detailed information with the Coalition on the locations of our offices and storage facilities. The contents of the warehouse had no military value.
On Twitter, Yemeni netizens share snippets of their lives to show us life under war.
From Sana'a, Hisham Al-Omeisy says power cuts and the lack of gas has effected backup generators in hospitals, putting the lives of patients at risk:
— Hisham Al-Omeisy (@omeisy) April 13, 2015
Yemen Updates explains:
— Yemen Updates (@yemen_updates) April 13, 2015
And Nisma Alozebi adds that “living in a jungle would be better”:
— Nisma Alozebi (@NismaAlozebi) April 16, 2015
In Aden, Yemenis complain of similar hardships. Mohammed Alsalafi tweets:
The situation in #Aden is very dire! Family member tells me:"no water, no electricity & it's hot" he adds "corps all over the streets"
— Mohammed A. A. (@Moalsalafi) April 18, 2015
Mobile phone communication and sharing the horrors of war with themselves and the outside war is at the back of many Yemenis minds, as electricity cuts leaves them completely cut off.
Ammar Al-Aulaqi shares this photograph showing a line up of phones waiting for their turn to be charged:
Funny pic going around. Impacts of power outage pic.twitter.com/UPhsYvrhob
— Ammar Al-Aulaqi (@ammar82) April 15, 2015
Akram Al-Akhali shares a similar photograph of a “recharging party”:
— Akram Al-Akhali (@alakhali) April 14, 2015
Food, Fuel and Water Shortages:
Amid an air, land and sea blockade on Yemen, no imports have been reaching the country which heavily relies on imports for fuel and food supply. Yemen has an import dependency for 90pc of its wheat and 100pc of its rice. The shortage caused a spike in food and fuel prices also causing a paralysis in mobility nationwide. Fuel is also needed to generate electric power and keep water systems running and necessary for operating hospital generators. Some water sources have also been damaged further by the conflict, either by airstrikes targeting a military base next to a water source or by Houthi/Saleh militias destroying a major pipeline, serving 1 million in the city of Aden.
Rasha Jarhum explains:
— Rasha Jarhum (@RashaJarhum) March 28, 2015
A video uploaded by SamaYemen reportedly shows damage to a drinking water pipe in the district of Mualla, in Aden:
And Yemen Updates warns of a “humanitarian disaster”:
— Yemen Updates (@yemen_updates) April 13, 2015
Wesam Qaid says bakeries in Aden have run out of flour:
— Wesam Qaid (@Wesamqaid) April 12, 2015
And the Twitter account of Yemen Post Newspaper posts photographs of Yemenis in lines, waiting for bread:
— Yemen Post Newspaper (@YemenPostNews) April 11, 2015
Yemeni netizens report serious water shortages. From Aden, Unicef Yemen shares this poster:
— UNICEF Yemen (@UNICEF_Yemen) April 5, 2015
Fatik Al-Rodaini shows children waiting in line for water in Aden:
— Fatik Al-Rodaini (@Fatikr) April 15, 2015
And Muraisi RedDevil explains the trouble people go through to get water:
— Yemeni_UK (@MuraisiRedDevil) April 7, 2015
The food and water shortage is being exacerbated by the lack of fuel for cars, and generators. From Sana'a, Ala'a Assamawy plots a 2.6km long traffic jam of cars waiting at a petrol station:
— Ala'a Assamawy (@assamawy) April 5, 2015
Ahmed Sayaghi, from Sana'a, shares this photograph:
— ~• A. Sayaghi •~ (@AhmedSayaghi) April 7, 2015
And the Yemen Post Newspaper tweets:
— Yemen Post Newspaper (@YemenPostNews) April 15, 2015
The same newspaper's Twitter account shows an enterprising Yemeni, eager to charge his phone using a portable solar energy charger:
— Yemen Post Newspaper (@YemenPostNews) April 18, 2015
And car — or motorbike — pooling is another viable option facing many Yemenis.
— Yemen Post Newspaper (@YemenPostNews) April 16, 2015
Stay tuned for more coverage as the drums of war continue to beat in this war-ravaged country.