Yemen: “I left looking for something better than the terror we lived in”
Written by Alaa Al-Eryani, communications assistant, Save the Children, Yemen
It’s only been three months since I started working for Save the Children in Yemen and in this brief time I’ve seen and learned things that would’ve taken me years to experience.
I’ve visited places, met people, and heard stories that I thought only happen in movies. These experiences have shown me how we can make a difference even in what seems the most challenging of situations.
I went to Aden (south of Yemen) to film the displaced families that had fled from Abyan because of the conflict there.
Aden this time was a very different place to the Aden I visited countless times as a child. It’s become quiet and sad.
Living in the school
Our first stop was Bir Ahmed School, which is now occupied by 400 displaced families.
The students have left, leaving it for the displaced people who are looking for shelter. The former students are now either studying in other schools or staying at home.
The image I saw shocked me: hundreds of people – the elderly, adults, teenagers, children, and babies – all crowded into the school.
Some have built tents, others have occupied the classrooms and some have just taken over the school playground as their shelter. But that wasn’t the biggest surprise, inside these tents and classrooms it’s even worse.
People live in unbearable heat (40C on average), I even felt my head was boiling at some points!
I can’t begin to describe the things that mothers and children have to endure while living in these conditions.
Bad hygiene, lack of privacy and personal space, hunger, poverty – these are just a few things these families have to cope with.
Mariam Abdullah, a mother of five, met us at the school and told us her story.
“We fled a year ago from Abyan and since then have been living in very rough circumstances,” she explained.
“There is no privacy at all. After we felt that it was getting too crowded inside the classrooms, many of us decided to build tents in the yard. We collected bags of cement and sewed them together. But the heat inside those tents is even worse than out!”
It made me very sad and frustrated to hear what hundreds of Yemenis have to go through.
These families here, trying to rebuild their lives were once living peacefully until one day they had to leave everything behind and flee because of the conflict. It’s destroyed people’s lives.
Yehia Shamsan, 54, said, “I left my farm and came here looking for something better than the terror we were living in, but what I found was disappointing.
“I can’t find any work here to support my family and the only thing we rely on is the help of the organisations. We need our old lives back.”
Save the Children’s emergency work in south Yemen has helped many displaced families, and is continuing to do so.
However, one can’t help but think what can be done in this terrible situation. The displaced people can’t go back to their homes as they are destroyed and it isn’t safe there.