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Yemen's Civil War Places Heavy Burden On Ordinary Citizens


We have a picture this morning of life inside Yemen's civil war. It comes from a woman who has been living for years inside territory controlled by Yemen's rebels and frequently bombed by Saudi Arabian warplanes supporting the government.

BUSHRA ALDUKHAINAH: Two family members died. One of them is my cousin's son, who is my son's best friend. My son asked me, mommy, why did my friend die? I was speechless, not knowing what to say or what to respond to him.

INSKEEP: The mother there is Bushra Aldukhainah. She is a manager for the aid agency CARE International in Yemen. She told us that her cousin's son died in an air raid in the city of Herat near the border with Saudi Arabia, where she and her family used to live. Then, they, like many other Yemenis, had to flee. Aldukhainah and her family moved to another city a few hours north of the capital, Sanaa.

So this city that you live in is in the mountains. What is daily life like there now?

ALDUKHAINAH: It's so hard to explain that because people have to worry every single day about what they eat for next meal, what they have. I mean, do they have to send their children to the school or not? Because they're worried they're not being - schools are not being targeted.

INSKEEP: Have schools been targeted in your area?

ALDUKHAINAH: More than 3,500 schools has been destroyed.

INSKEEP: Three thousand five hundred schools.

ALDUKHAINAH: And that was two years ago.

INSKEEP: How did you learn that number?

ALDUKHAINAH: Because I had to do my second master degree when I - after I was displaced from Herat back to Hadja.

INSKEEP: I'm just dwelling for a moment on the fact that you're trying to live a normal life in a war zone.


INSKEEP: And so you're studying, and the war's right there, so you studied it.

ALDUKHAINAH: Yes, I did. I have like a great passion for education. So my dream is just to study and learn and being a mom and working under stress in a conflict zone and to also accomplish my goals and dreams was very challenging, like, not give up for what's going on around me and just let my dreams be a way.

INSKEEP: You said you're a mom.

ALDUKHAINAH: Yes, for a 12 years old boy.

INSKEEP: Congratulations.


INSKEEP: Is he going to school?

ALDUKHAINAH: He does go to school. And he is my biggest inspiration and hope in this world.

INSKEEP: What's it like to send him off every day?

ALDUKHAINAH: This was also one of the biggest and challenging decisions to make because airstrikes were everywhere. It wasn't safe. No safe place around. And to make him also comfortable like, no, we have to live with the hope. We have to study. We have to continue our life. If we're dead, we're dead. But we have to live the life that - as long we are still alive.

INSKEEP: Can people get medical care in your city when they need it?

ALDUKHAINAH: It's so hard and so, I mean, rare because I, myself, got dengue fever when I was in a field trip in Hudaydah.

INSKEEP: Hudaydah, we should explain, that's a port city.


INSKEEP: So you went there, and you got dengue fever.

ALDUKHAINAH: When I went there, we were just opening a new office. And I got dengue fever. And I thought I was dying because I did not have proper care, medical care there. And I thought that was it.

INSKEEP: How long were you sick?

ALDUKHAINAH: For six weeks.

INSKEEP: Six weeks.

ALDUKHAINAH: I was just lying on bed. I've heard lots of cases who died out of the dengue fever and other diseases. I mean, also with the cholera, with the diphtheria which is now increasing all over the country.

INSKEEP: When visiting Yemen earlier this year, I wanted to change some money. And I took out a $20 bill and handed it to a hotel clerk. And he put the $20 in his own shirt pocket and then opened a drawer and handed me I believe 8,000 Yemeni rials. It seemed like a virtually worthless currency.

ALDUKHAINAH: I mean, yeah, the exchange rate has gone very high, which was reflected in the commodities for the people.

INSKEEP: When the currency collapses, that means the price of everything has gone up.


INSKEEP: And people's salaries did not go up if they still have a salary.

ALDUKHAINAH: No. Teachers had not received their salaries for two years.

INSKEEP: Two years.

ALDUKHAINAH: Two years. Imagine what - how would a teacher who has a family and kids at home, how he would go and teach on a daily basis.

INSKEEP: When you come here to visit the United States, do you feel like people care?

ALDUKHAINAH: I think people do care because we are all human beings. We're all parents. I don't know if you have kids.

INSKEEP: I have three.

ALDUKHAINAH: Everybody has a kid. And you know how parents care for their children. And I think people care when it comes to their children, to the people. If you have a neighbor or a friend, you feel so sorry when you hear that he had gone through a very dramatic situation or he had suffered from something. And I think when people hear what's going on from people like me and from other people, I think they do care, and they should care.

INSKEEP: Bushra Aldukhainah, thanks very much.

ALDUKHAINAH: Most welcome.

INSKEEP: She's a regional manager for the international aid agency CARE. Now, shortly after we talked, an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen struck a wedding in her city, Hadja. Her family was unhurt, but it said that more than 20 people were killed. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.