Happy Eid – from Yemen

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Eid is upon us. But it doesn’t feel like Eid. Fighting in Yemen has not ceased throughout the month of Ramadan – in fact it intensified. The upcoming holiday is meant to encourage forgiveness, charity, remembrance of God and generosity to ones neighbors. It’s also an opportunity to get members of the family together in celebration. This year is different.

Airstrikes and fighting have become staples of everyday life in Yemen.

I think I’ve adapted, but my two-year-old niece still asks questions, and I’m forced to lie. “What is this sound Auntie? It’s really scary,” she asks. I tell her it is just fireworks. But after more than 100 days of fireworks, I think she’s figured it out.

When things escalated in late March, my family and I tried to move to a safer location, but soon found out that there were none. Part of our house in Sanaa was hit and it felt like a whole mountain was collapsing on us. Just last week, my sister and I barely survived a car bomb that went off only a few meters from us, as we were walking down the street. I was most shocked by my lack of shock.

But this isn’t just about the fighting. Restrictions on imports into Yemen are leaving us without adequate quantities of fuel, food or medicine. The limited supplies available in the marketplace are selling for incredibly high prices – well beyond the reach of millions of Yemenis, many of whom have lost their jobs and incomes as a result of the conflict. My sister worked for a travel agency that shut down when Sanaa airport was hit.

When my family and I wanted to leave Sanaa, we couldn’t find fuel for the car. One petrol station had some quantities available, but the price was three times more than what we used to pay, so we couldn’t buy enough. Price of cooking gas doubled, and in addition to the lack of power and clean water, we’re now effectively trapped, helpless and running out of critical supplies.

We heard talk about a temporary ceasefire, or pause. We have not seen any concrete changes on the ground.  Airstrikes on Sanaa and fighting in the South were uninterrupted by the last truce that was meant to begin on Friday at midnight.

So how are we going to get out of this mess? A permanent ceasefire would be a good start, one that all sides adhere to. We also need an arms embargo to stop the flow of weapons into Yemen. Fighting will inevitably cease when all parties in the current conflict run out of arms and ammunition.

Also, restrictions on imports need to be lifted, otherwise more people could die as a result of the lack of supplies than from the bullets and bombs.

But Yemen is no stranger to crises. The country has historically struggled with corruption, mismanagement of resources, and a weak governance apparatus. Any long-term solution will require Yemenis to come together and resolve, once and for all, some of these pending issues.  Groups representing different communities in Yemen should sit across the same table and work towards a long-term political solution that addresses the needs and inequalities plaguing the country.

If Yemenis care about their country – and I believe we do – we should put our differences aside and work towards the common good, through negotiations, reconciliations and compromises.

This entry posted by Hind Aleryani, Oxfam staff member in Yemen, on 16 July 2016. She lives in Sanaa and has not left the city since the escalation in fighting in late March.

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