Manal Qaed Alwesabi
I start my day thinking it could be my last one, so I try to ignore all nuisances and petty problems and greet everyone as if it is the last time we see each other – for, at any moment, we can be reduced to a mere number in the records of this war.
I have lived in Yemen’s western coastal city of Hodeidah since I was six years old, that is, for 29 years now. I have many memories here: my family, the sea, the people, their excessive kindness, Arabian jasmine and the taste of delicious seafood. All of them have now been consumed by the war.
I see people walk in the street with heavy hearts, each carrying a tragic story about the death of a loved one, the loss of livelihood or the illness that they cannot afford to treat.
Life has been hard in Hodeidah since the conflict began but the past six months have been the worst for us.
As the fighting intensified, hunger, desperation and death slowly overwhelmed the city. In the only functioning government hospital, I found out, more than 600 malnourished children are being treated.
Drug prices have doubled. Patients with cancer, kidney failure and chronic diseases have struggled to get treatment, constantly at risk of being killed by one of the frequent delays in medication shipments.
The internet started getting cut off, at first for a few days, then for weeks. At home, there was nothing to do, so we went back to reading books and watching television.
Then, the electricity blackouts started and we couldn’t do that any more either. In the beginning, we took it lightly. We lit up some candles and enjoyed the warmth of the flickering light. We even play some music on our phones, which often got drowned by the loud sound of heavy explosions.
As the siege choked the city, there was nothing to distract oneself with from the realities of war: no beach, no parks, no restaurants, no internet. We suddenly become cut off from the rest of the world. It felt as if we were living on a different planet, as if we were slowly losing our humanity.One day, my husband and I decided to try to go to the sea. We thought we were the only fools in the city who had come up with the idea, but it turned out we were wrong. The little strip of coast that was still not blocked by barricades was full of people. The shelling was very close that day, but we all seemed to ignore it. People just sat there and looked at the sea. No one wanted to leave.The bombardment of the city also intensified. Treacherous shrapnel would pierce into its heart, killing men, women and children indiscriminately on a daily basis.
One day, my son 11-year-old son Ammar was late from school. As I struggled to keep calm, I couldn’t stop thinking about the shrapnel or the number of explosions I had heard and what could have befallen my child, as he walked back home.
For a while, one thought had been occupying my mind: No more child victims! I had decided not to bring any more children to this brutal world so I don’t have to see them sacrificed at the altar of this senseless war.
In November, I left Yemen for about a month. Abroad, I felt I was losing my strength. I never felt depressed in Hodeidah the way I did outside.