Yemen: Can you imagine what three years of war means?
After three years of bitter conflict, more than 22 million people in Yemen rely on humanitarian aid for their survival.
Of these, nearly 2.5 million people have been forced to flee from their homes because of the conflict.
Can you imagine what that means?
At a camp for displaced people in Amran, northern Yemen, that I visited this week, I can see for myself what it is like.
The effects of a harsh winter are still evident in the tired faces of the people who are moving around the many tents. More than 4,000 people live here and most of them are children.
When I go to the mobile reproductive health clinic, which is also in a tent, the space is divided in two parts: the left part functions as a maternity ward and the right part is the counselling and family planning section.
But the tent is filled with women and their children and there is barely any space for the doctor and the midwife to move around or speak with patients.
The health team – who work with CARE’s local partner, the Yemen Association for Reproductive Health (YARH) – aim to help 60 patients per day. Considering the team consists of only four people and they cover 20 health points across the governorate of Amran, I am deeply impressed with what they are able to achieve.
However, even though the team is performing life-saving work to help women safely give birth to their babies, once these babies enter this world, they still do not have a high chance of survival.
They are born in tents to mothers who have been unable to feed themselves properly because when it comes to food, or rather lack thereof, they will feed their children and skip their own meals.
These are impossible choices.
Amran’s last winter was harsh and without a proper home, gas, fuel and not enough food and clothes, it is incredibly difficult to stay warm and healthy.
Today a man was telling me that his son is planning to sell his kidney on the black market in order to pay for the healthcare of his mother. I saw four-year-old children who are the size of my two-year-old niece. I held a baby who is four months old but no bigger than a newborn.
On days like these, when you meet children who are malnourished and you realise, even if we manage to save the lives of these kids, there are still hundreds of thousands of other kids in Yemen dying of hunger, then hope escapes you.
Whatever we do to feed the hungry in Yemen, if there is no political solution to the conflict that will bring peace, the suffering will never end.
If all parties to the conflict are not pushed to come to an agreement that will end the suffering of Yemeni people, whatever we do is not enough.
My colleague Hind has written about this in an article published in The Guardian. Let us take her words not just as an inspiration, but as a demand:
Peace has to take the place of destruction. Development and building have to take the place of starvation. Laughter and happiness and normalcy should take the place of the endless stories of sadness and destruction and death. Yemenis deserve more than this. Yemen deserves better.
By Jolien Veldwijk, Assistant Country Director of Programmes, CARE Yemen
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