An Aid Worker Could Have Fled Yemen With His Family. Instead, He Chose To Stay.

He gave A Plus a firsthand account of what's happening on the ground.

Hassan Basha could have left Yemen as a civil war erupted in his home country, but instead, he stayed.

The humanitarian worker, who is employed by the charity Save the Children as a safety and security manager, makes sure areas are safe before aid workers move in on the ground.  Basha said when the war started, he just couldn't bring himself to leave, even though he had a bachelor's degree and the means to get him and his family out.

Recommended

"You can see just how much suffering there is," Basha told A Plus. "Children are out of schools; children are on the streets. They are homeless. They didn't get a chance to live a childhood just because of this war. It seemed selfish actually to leave all of this to sort of escape myself and my family and tell myself I had nothing to do with this. I just couldn't do it."

In June 2018, Iman* was playing in the backyard of her Hodeidah home when an airstrike hit her neighbor's house, severely injuring the 6-year old. Save the Children worked with a partner to coordinate and cover her specialized medical treatment in Sana'a and is ensuring she gets psychological support. *Name has been changed.  Ali Ashwal/Save the Children

While groups have fought sporadically since 2004, the last three years have seen an intensified war that has devastated the people of Yemen. Yemen was already one of the poorest countries in the world when the conflict started. But since western nations like the United States, France, and Britain joined Saudia Arabia in an effort to take back the capital from the Houthi rebels, things have gotten markedly worse.

A United Nations report released on Tuesday alleged that the governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia may have been responsible for war crimes during the conflict. From March of 2015 to June of 2018, the U.N. estimates that 6,475 people have been killed in the conflict, and more than 10,000 killed overall. Save The Children estimates that thousands more have died from things like cholera, lack of medical care, airstrikes on civilians and malnutrition. The U.N. says more than 22 million people, or 75 percent of the country, are in need of humanitarian assistance. 17.8 million don't know where their next meal is coming from. And three U.N.-organized attempts at a peace deal have failed.

Basha has been left to witness firsthand what is now being called the worst man-made disaster in human history.

"People have been adapting to this crisis by reducing the number of meals they have," Basha said. "People are not getting enough food. Women, lactating women, and pregnant women are not getting enough food...that means their babies are going to be born in a very bad health condition."

In a Skype call from Yemen with A Plus, Hassan said more than 50 percent of the health facilities are no longer functioning. More than 50 percent of the schools have been damaged, are occupied by armed groups or are used as homes for Internally Displaced People (IDPs).  Earlier this month, dozens of children were killed when an airstrike hit a school bus. Working with Save the Children, Hassan has helped a team that is trying to hold the line as the crisis has an impact on people's day-to-day lives.

The team in Yemen works to train health workers on how to deal with pregnancy, helps control epidemic outbreaks like cholera and dysentery, provide and distribute food to mothers, and do their best to keep children in schools by setting up learning stations or accelerated education programs. One of the biggest issues in Yemen is that with so many children out of school or attending irregularly, many end up being drawn into extremist or military groups. 

Fatima* was born underweight, then struggled to feed, losing enough weight to be diagnosed  with Moderate Acute Malnutrition at 7 months. After Fatima's mother brought her to a Save the Children-supported health facility in 2018,  where Fatima was given therapeutic food and medicine and her mom attended a breastfeeding support session, Fatima's condition is improving. *Name has been changed. Ali Ashwal/Save the Children.

When he drives the streets, Basha said he sees children who are picking through trash and still look new to the desperate circumstances they are living in. But by helping guide humanitarian workers through dangerous areas, Basha has been part of helping Save the Children treat more than 100,000 children suffering from malnutrition across Yemen in the current crisis. Since August of 2017, Save the Children has reached over 1.78 million people with their services, including 854,000 children.

In Yemen, Basha added that people are still holding onto last bits of hope that the conflict can come to an end soon. Many of them are helpless to stop the international powers and the rebel groups from fighting, but Basha believes the international community — and humanitarian workers — need to continue to voice the suffering of Yemen's children to the world. 

"As humanitarian workers, we can never stop manmade wars and conflicts from happening," Basha said. "We can never stop natural disasters from happening. But what we can make sure of is that when they do happen, we can be there and we will be there."

Correction: A previous version of this article noted that Save the Children, which has operated in Yemen since 1963, has treated 100,000 children suffering from malnutrition across Yemen. That number reflects their work in the current crisis alone. 

GET SOME POSITIVITY IN YOUR INBOX

Subscribe to our newsletter and get the latest news and exclusive updates.