War in Yemen: Six Years, Six Stories
As Yemen marks six years of conflict, its people are suffering the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world. Civilians – especially children – continue to pay the heaviest price.
"This is a man-made disaster resulting from a conflict that is being waged with near-complete disregard for the civilian population’s well-being and safety," said Janti Soeripto, President and CEO of Save the Children. "Almost every day, we hear of children and families caught up in the fighting, often paying with their lives."
Here, six children share their stories of growing up surrounded by war – and dreaming of a brighter future – in Yemen.
Photo credit: Anna Pantelia / Save the Children
Bushra,* age 15
Bushra* was born with a deformation in her legs and is unable to walk. When the war started, an airstrike hit her school while she and her classmates were inside. As the fighting escalated, Bushra and her mother fled their home in Hodeida. The family now lives in a makeshift shelter in a displacement camp.
“Before the war I had a normal life," explains Bushra. "I went to school in my wheelchair. I had friends coming over and we used to chat, draw and sing in my room. I had a very interesting life and I felt safe."
"After the war started I got displaced twice. War-planes were flying above our heads all the time and the area was full of armed people. I started feeling very afraid."
Photo: Anna Pantelia / Save the Children
Hosam*, age 16
"Before the war we were happier," says 16-year old Hosam*.
Since the beginning of the war in 2015, neither he nor his brother has been able to attend school. Instead, they worked repairing cars and motorbikes to help provide the family with income. "We wanted to help our family financially," says Hosam. "With this money we could afford only bread and wheat. Sometimes we get some rice from one of our neighbors."
After the brothers developed debilitating hernias, they could no longer continue to work. Save the Children provided assistance in order to cover the medical expenses of hernia operations.
"I was hoping to become a doctor one day," he says. "When the war started, we had to flee our house due to the bombings."
Through Save the Children, Hosam was eventually able to re-register in a public school and continue his education. "I struggle with writing," he says, "but I am getting better."
Photo credit: Nour Wahid / Save the Children
Omar*, age 8
"Every morning that my children go to school my heart feels heavy” says Omar's father. Omar and his brother Mahmoud* were walking in the neighborhood one day when an artillery shell hit. Tragically, Mahmoud died before he could be treated at the hospital.
Omar wishes he could still play with his late brother, and the emotional toll of losing his sibling and sustaining his own critical injuries will likely endure long after the wounds have healed.
"Mahmoud wanted to become a pilot," says his mother, "now he flew away."
"I want the world to alleviate the suffering of the children in Taiz. I wonder why a shell should kill a child who is just playing. This is the biggest crime, the biggest war that destroys mothers and children."
Photo credit: Anna Pantelia/ Save the Children
Musa*, age 15
“I am not afraid of the war anymore," says Musa*. "I learn to live with it."
Despite what he says, the war in Yemen has robbed Musa of so much. When he was 10-years old, Musa was on the way back home from the marker when an artillery shell hit his neighborhood. He fell to the ground, unconscious. When he opened his eyes he managed to ask for help and some young men took him to the hospital.
After he was discharged, his family fled. Musa stayed out of school for four long years but was finally able to receive an education again once his neighborhood in Taiz was safe. Save the Children has provided him with vocational training.
"My hope for the future is to settle down, have my own house and get married,” he says.
Photo credit: Anna Pantelia / Save the Children
Falak*, age 16
"When I was in the 9th grade, I had to stop going to school," says Falak*. "I had to support my grandparents financially."
Through the help of Save the Children, Falak was able to receive vocational training and take sewing courses. Many young adults in Yemen like Falak are struggling to find a job. The situation is being compounded by the absence of vocational and entrepreneurial skills.
“Before the war everything was cheap but now everything became so expensive so we are struggling to make ends meet. When the war first started I was afraid of the shelling. Now I know that I cannot control the shelling so I learned how to live with it."
Photo credit: Ahmad Baroudi / Save the Children
Sadam*, age 14
Sadam*’s father was killed before his eyes in an airstrike.
“One day I was in the market with my father and I heard planes flying above," he says. "An airstrike hit the area we were. My dad died instantly and I was injured in the leg. I had been shouting for help and crying for about two hours until someone found us and took me to the hospital."
Sadam's leg was injured so badly that, despite surgery, he is unable to walk on his own. After the airstrike, Sadam's mother took him and his sister and fled.
His recovery, both emotionally and physically, has been slow. Save the Children provided Sadam with mental health support as well as financial support for his family.
"When I grow up, I want to become a doctor so I can help people who are sick and injured."
* Names changed for protection.
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