Fieldset
Yemen: "The people of Taiz are paying a heavy price for this war"

Shroq Saeed is the medical activities manager for MSF in Yemen. She shares her experience of living and working in a country that has faced years of conflict...

With a heart full of dreams, I was a fresh graduate medical doctor back in 2015 in Yemen’s beautiful region of Taiz. I had made all my life plans, starting with learning the English language, to going abroad for post-graduate education. Life had other ideas though.

On an afternoon of March 2015, we witnessed a sudden shift of the context in Taiz. Fighters entered the city; the aerial bombing started; and the streets of Taiz city became a combat zone by the end of the day.

When I opened my eyes, there were bullet marks on the walls of the hospital room and I wondered if I was hit by any of them. Fortunately, I was not.

That evening, I spent the whole night screaming and crying as the doors and windows of my house had been blown through by the blasts. I was eight-months pregnant with my first baby at that time. We spent days on end hiding in our home. I reached my 10th month of pregnancy without going into labour. The doctors could not find any physical reason for the prolonged pregnancy except the fear, trauma and stress I was going through.

Gunshots at the hospital

I finally gave birth to my baby through caesarean section after 44 weeks of pregnancy during a time when there was a shortage of oxygen and medical supplies in the city due to the war. The doctors had fled the city, and many hospitals were already shut down.

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A local school sits flattened by an airstrike on July 24, 2015 in Taiz, Yemen.
A local school sits flattened by an airstrike on July 24, 2015 in Taiz, Yemen.

I remember I was admitted to hospital after the C-section, and while I was there bullets smashed through the windows of my room. My mother hid herself with my newborn baby in the toilet, when I was unable to move even an inch due to the pain of the surgery. When I opened my eyes, there were bullet marks on the walls of the hospital room and I wondered if I had been hit. Fortunately, I had not.

Haunted

I also cannot forget an incident when, at a time of fuel shortages, a truck full of fuel secretly parked in my neighbourhood and was ignited during the conflict. Around 300 people were burned in the fire. Many of them died. I heard people on fire screaming for help. The experience was like being all alone in a haunted house in middle of the night hearing awful screams.

I can’t take my children out for a walk, or to a park to play, as the insecurity in the area has held us hostage. I fear they would be kidnapped, or a stray bullet could hit them...

The intense fighting in Taiz continued and life stood still for months. It was May 2016 when I moved to Al-Houban area of Taiz where it was relatively safer. I started working there with MSF, trying to move on with my life. My child was with my mother in Taiz City and I used to visit him once every three months because the route from Taiz City to Al-Houban was very dangerous. I remember feeling helpless and miserable saying goodbye to my son. However, it was important for me to practice my medical studies and to earn money in order to travel abroad to pursue my postgraduate education.

Landmines and snipers

Taiz is now divided by an active frontline. One area, called Al-Houban, is controlled by Ansar Allah forces, whereas Taiz City is in control of the internationally recognised government of Yemen. People now living on two different sides of the frontline were one community once. They have friends and relatives on the other side. But landmines and snipers have made it impossible for them to just go to their neighbourhood.

Before, it was about a 10-minute drive from Taiz City to Al-Houban, but it now takes six hours driving through dangerous bumpy mountain roads to go to the other side. We can literally see the houses of our friends from our rooftop, but we cannot walk over there. The wall of landmines and snipers stops us.

I now work in Taiz City with MSF, living with my two children. I feel sorry for them that I can’t take them out for a walk, or to a park to play, as the insecurity in the area has held us hostage. I fear they would be kidnapped, or a stray bullet could hit them if I let them go out on the street.

The door that won't budge

The people of Taiz are paying a heavy price for a war that they have nothing to do with! Life is difficult here with huge inflation and necessities such as electricity, water and healthcare unavailable to many. I used to buy milk for my first child for 1200 Riyals ($2); it now costs 5000 ($8).

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Dr Shroq Saeed
Dr Shroq Saeed

The people of Taiz have had their mental health destroyed too. It is easy to guess causes of the worsening mental health of the people when they feel insecure all the time; when they have no economic opportunities and when they have no hope for a better future.

Taiz is losing hope as an end to the conflict doesn’t seem possible in the near future. Hope is dead for hundreds of thousands of people who live here. I feel determined and optimistic that I will succeed, and my children are going to have a better future. I am still pursuing my dreams, but I feel like I am pushing a door that won’t budge.

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Top image shows MSF midwife supervisor, Taqwa Abdulghani Hassan assisting a mother to walk after a caesarean section at Al-Jamhouri hospital in Taiz City, Yemen.

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Read more: Stories from our Yemeni team

Yemen: The strength to save my family

Yemen: "We were facing death"