Yesterday a new round of deadly airstrikes in Yemen shattered hopes for peace in a country where one child is dying every twelve minutes. CARE’s Alex Hilliard is in the capital, Sana’a, where the airstrikes hit.
During Ramadan, Sana’a is very quiet in the mornings. I usually go out onto our terrace first thing and listen to the birds. It’s a peaceful time – as it should be in Ramadan, when Muslims fast during daylight hours to affirm their faith.
This morning, that peace was shattered as 19 airstrikes tore through the city. It was terrifying and my hands are still shaking as I write this.
I flew into Sana’a airport – Yemen’s main airport, closed to commercial flights for almost three years – for the first time in January. The runway is littered with bombed-out aeroplanes, helicopters and vehicles scattered around like carcasses. My immediate thought was of the waste, the sadness, the futility of war.
This morning was my first experience of an airstrike happening almost on my doorstep, and it is deeply shocking and absolutely terrifying.
I woke at around 6.30 to the sound of a huge explosion that shook the (very solid) foundations of my home, rattling the windows and doors. I admit that I panicked momentarily, wondering if I should head to the safe room. That room I have always wondered whether I would ever need.
I waited, trying to stay calm until all was still – eerily so.
I went upstairs and found my housemate looking out of the window, across the city to the mountains where a large plume of dark grey smoke was rising into the air.
The sky was still blue, the birds were singing, the morning air was fresh. But soon, we heard the sounds of planes circling overhead again, signalling that there would be more airstrikes. The minutes ticked by, and then there was again the sound of an explosion – this time fainter, further away – yet visible by the tell-tale smoke rising out of the tops of houses.
Later, I receive a message from a colleague saying she won’t be coming to work today. An airstrike hit close to her house, and although she and her family are okay, she doesn’t feel comfortable leaving home. I say of course I understand, please stay safe.
Those two words: “stay safe” are commonly used here.
I hear that one of the airstrikes hit a residential area, and photos soon emerge on social media. Almost a whole family was killed while they were sleeping, the small bodies of children being carried out of the rubble; just one little girl survived.
Just a few miles away from me there is a family who will never wake up again, will never again see the beautiful mountains of Yemen or visit the bustling markets and cafes of Sana’a. Yet more tragic still is the little girl who will never see her parents and siblings again.
I’m in tears as I write, part sadness and part anger that these stories are so common here. I want to share this small insight of my morning here in Yemen with the world, to share the horror of destruction. Before the next airstrike comes.
CARE’s team in Yemen needs your support now more than ever. Read more about the work they are doing to support families in Yemen and donate here.