As Ramadan comes to an end and millions of people around the world celebrate Eid, the citizens of Yemen face another bittersweet holiday season. CARE’s Mohammed Almahdi reflects on how life has changed for him and his fellow Yemenis throughout more than four years of war.
Eid has always had a special place in my heart. When I was young, the evening before Eid was filled with warmth and anticipation. My mother and sisters would make cookies and I’d help them with baking. Our hearts would beat fast with excitement making it difficult to sleep.
In the morning, my father and I would visit our female relatives, who were always pleased to see us and welcomed us with nuts, desserts and drinks. In the afternoon I’d visit my friends and we’d hang out and have dinner in the city. A couple of days later we’d all travel to the seaside cities of Hodeidah or Aden to have fun, and I would spend my time taking photos and videos, documenting what would turn out to be the most carefree days of our lives.
Since the beginning of the war – more than four years ago – life has changed for everyone in Yemen. Most of my friends have either left the country or have been killed, and I can’t travel to the seaside because the roads are impassable and the fuel is so expensive. Now when I wander the city in the evenings, the streets are empty and the shops are closed. I no longer smell baking cookies, and the children I come across are playing aggressive games full of violence.
The Eid rituals which are a part of our culture – food, gifts, new clothes – are no longer possible for so many. And for families who have fled their homes and now live in camps amidst dust, cold and rain, those little rituals are now an impossible dream.
During Eid I often think of people who spend the holiday in hospitals. Epidemics of cholera and diphtheria are sweeping the country. When I visited some hospitals last year, I remember seeing many women lying on beds waiting to give birth to babies who had already died. Most of the women had travelled long distances on rough and dangerous roads to get to the clinics. I remember the screams of their suffering.
I think about the happier times, the excitement we felt as children on the eve of Eid, a time for celebration. And I think about how many people in Yemen will spend their Eid this year in a seemingly endless struggle between life and death. I wonder how many of us will make it to next year and another Eid.
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.
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