Sukaina Sharafuddin works in our Yemen Country Office. This interview is dated 29/08/2017.
On March 25th my husband and I woke up to a loud unusual sound of aircrafts flying so fast. It was 2:00 a.m. and we were still half asleep. We stared at each other in silence and worry, trying to figure out what was happening, yet we knew for sure it was going to be bad.
When missiles dropped and made big explosions, that’s when we realized it was war. Terrified, we rushed into the hall away from the windows which had just broken. We turned off the lights, held each other and just said prayers. When it got more intense, we took our important belongings and went downstairs and sat under the building’s staircase.
“We were panicked, crying and calling our families saying our last goodbyes.”
Neighbours with their children followed us and we were all squeezed in a small space. We were panicked, crying and calling our families, saying our last goodbyes. I will never forget that day! That day, more than 200 missiles had dropped on Sana’a alone, killing and injuring many.
When a missile falls, it is very nerve-wracking, just like in the movies. First it makes a whistling sound while it flies fast to its target. Then, it lights up the room from the explosion it makes, with a loud “BOOM”. Last comes the wave blast that shakes your house, breaks windows and opens shut doors.
” …there have been more than 55,000 causalities – more than 3000 of them are children.”
The feeling that you, your family, or a friend could be accidentally targeted is exhausting, and the depressing feeling you get knowing that with every missile dropping on your country, damage is created and innocent lives are taken. Up until today, there have been more than 55,000 causalities – more than 3000 of them are children.
I found out I was pregnant with my first child only a week before the war started. In that week, I surprised my parents with the news and started shopping for the baby. I was determined to look after myself by eating and sleeping well so that my baby is born healthy.
I dreamt of how I will raise him in a happy and positive environment, and started by downloading pregnancy lullabies just like any modern mother. Unfortunately, the war changed everything, and simple tasks and errands became very hard.
The thought to have a one good night’s sleep was impossible with all the jets flying and all the explosions. Although the doctor advised me to put on headphones and listen to music to distract me, it didn’t really work, because of the thought that I could be under the rubble of my house at any moment, or have a miscarriage.
I tried moving from my house, which was close to frequently-bombarded areas, to five different places over friends’ and family’s hoping to find a temporary place where I would feel safe until I deliver my baby – but nowhere was safe. I eventually went back home and decided to adapt. I remember encouraging myself, saying; “When Elias grows up, I would tell him how he was my strength during difficult times”.
As a humanitarian worker, working for Save the Children, I had to have the courage to go to work every day unless it was extremely dangerous and we had to work from home.
On my way to work I would see the streets, empty of people. Shops and restaurants were all closed and families were driving fast in all directions, trying to escape places targeted by airstrikes. My usual ride to work was twice as long for taking the advised alternative roads.
“…I feel more determined than ever to let the world know that children in Yemen are being killed in their thousands…”
In the office, it was amazing to see all staff there, despite their worries and fears or their job position. We were 50 to 60 staff gathered up most of the time in a safe room, yet all of us were very focused, determined to ensure that our aid is delivered on time. We knew that if we didn’t deliver our best at times like this when would we!
Now that I am a mother to my 22-months-old son Elias, I feel more determined than ever to let the world know that children in Yemen are being killed in their thousands and that Yemen is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Although I have been working for Save the Children for years, this war has made me realize how important and essential the role of every employee is, especially in times of crisis. Every one of us is empowered because we know that we serve a great cause, which is our organization’s inspiring mission of saving children.