Life has to go on

In the fourth installment of my audio diary, I talk about water and sanitation in Khameer and what life is like in Saada city. 


I’ve come to visit a school in Khameer city in Amran with Ralph, who’s our water and sanitation engineer.

What's happened in Yemen is that people living in the most dangerous areas like Saada in the north have been forced to flee their homes.

It's very difficult to leave Yemen, they can't find anywhere that's really safe, but there are certain places that are seen as a bit safer like Khameer, which hasn’t been directly bombed on the city centre.

It means there are a lot of people now who've come to this city. They are living, with families, with relatives if they can. A lot of people are living in schools, so now the schools aren't working anymore. And the people who are really unfortunate are living in camps, living under bits of plastic sheeting.

Water and sanitation is not the most glamorous job, but actually it’s a job I'd really like to do, because it is very effective. Ralph has been here since I arrived to try and sort out the situation, with a lot of people comes a big need for water and Yemen is a very dry country. So, they need an awful lot of water to be delivered. He's been setting up water tanks throughout the city, arranging for water to be trucked, but the other thing he's been doing is trying to sort out places for people to go to the toilet.

He's been setting up latrines everywhere. And in the schools, he has been clearing out the septic tanks, which are all over flowing. It’s pretty disgusting job, but actually really interesting to watch. It’s amazing how effective it is.

It’s one of the side effects you don't think of in a conflict. You kind of think about the airstrikes, it's the thing I am seeing most often. When I come back into Khameer and see the fallout, the fact that people have had to leave their homes and live in this environment, it’s kind of very clear that there needs to be more support, not just for the health but for the things that can cause problems with health.


Dangerous Road

I am in the car with my driver Hussein and my assistant Hussein and we are just driving past the scene of an airstrike from earlier on today.

We are on our way up to Sadaa governorate. This road is getting increasingly much of a problem. Everyday it's bombed by aeroplanes. So it means that we have to be quite careful when we are driving up here.

Now literally have just driven past a truck that was bombed a few hours ago. It's still burning it was carrying apples and wheat. The sacks of wheat are on fire. So there is smoke everywhere and the truck is just complete black and mess. I don't know how many people died, in the accident - not an accident - in the airstrike. It's not very clear to me how many people died but at least the driver of the truck and whoever else was in the truck couldn't have survived.

Dead sheep and goats from a bombed truck © Natalie Roberts

Dead sheep and goats from a bombed truck © Natalie Roberts

It's really a horrible road to travel on now. Every, few hundred meters you see another burnt out vehicle. Always carrying goods. Just before there was a truck and outside with hundreds of dead sheep and goats, because the truck had been carrying animals down to slaughter. Every single bridge on the road is being bombed out. It makes it really difficult to travel. We have a four wheel drive so we are OK. But there are many cars getting stuck. People trying to leave Sadaa to go somewhere safer are struggling to get along the road as well.

And any ambulances are trying to travel, it’s almost impassable for them. It's just an intimidating experience to drive up and down this road and be aware that any minute an aeroplane could be coming. We have a flag on the roof, but you know, it doesn't feel like it gives me a huge amount of protection, right now, when you drive past scenes like this. 

What my team say to me is “Inshallah Mafi Mushkila” which means "God willing we will have no problem". Yeah, it doesn't feel so, so fine to me. The same as we drive along as we see many people walking on the road. Trying to get somewhere safer. So lots of displaced people who are trying to find somewhere to live, now they can no longer live in their homes.

One good thing though that's made me feel a lot happier about this road is that we just passed a whole herd of camels, lots of baby camels, adult camels all being herded along the side of the road, by a guy with a motorbike. Somehow it's kind of reassuring that you can't feel too afraid, when there's a whole bunch of camels around. 

Saada City

Now, finally driving into Saada city. This place I find quite impressive, because I have been to some very bombed out places in the last few years.

I spent a lot of time in Syria and Ukraine but Saada city is the worst I’ve seen actually. It's incredibly bombed out.

I am always amazed and always surprised by how busy it is. There are still so many people on the streets.

There are markets running, people trying to sell food and people racing around on their motorbikes despite all the destruction and damage.

I guess it’s just the same as everywhere. Life has to go on and people have to try and live and make a living. 

Sleepless in Saada

I am in Sadaa city tonight. And I just got woken up by the sound of bombing, not too heavy, but somewhere nearby.

It is quite annoying, because I very often struggle to sleep in Sadaa. I've been camping out in an office of a hospital in town, with the idea it is the safest location to sleep.

But it's noisy, lots of mosquitoes. And there is often bombing overnight. If not on the city centre, then somewhere nearby.

Tonight, as always, I sat and ate with my team. My driver and my translator are sleeping in the office next door. We all had dinner together and talked a bit, but there been a plane flying over overhead all day and all night really.

I feel like I spend most of my time here complaining about not getting enough sleep. Once again, I am back wide awake lying on my thin foam mattress with the mosquitoes buzzing around. I am just listening to the sound of anti-aircraft fire.

Not really sure that, I am going to get anymore quality sleep tonight. So I will be complaining again in the morning as always.