By Sarah Mahmoud
Lulua Saleh, 21, says her "heart and my brothers' hearts could not heal since our mother's preventable death on August 28." Her mother, Safiya Abdulmajid, in her 50s came under a stroke in the morning of that day in a village in Sharaab district, an outskirt of Taiz city in south western Yemen. "We barely afforded some money for the car that would transport our mother to Taiz city," says Lulua. "But we could not make it to the city, where hospitals are, in time," she says describing how she and her brothers suffered the trauma of their mother's death in the middle of a seven-hour-long arduous journey through rough dangerous mountainous roads to bypass the otherwise 45-minute shortcut, the regular road, blocked by Shia Islamic extremists besieging the city for more than five years.
"When my mothers' eyes looked fixed and her limbs felt cool, our gut feeling that was strong that she is dead," she said. But they finished the journey to a hospital in the heart of the city anyway. "The doctor told us 'too late,' and imparted us with words of comfort."
Many families are "losing their loved ones these days during this overly long journey for hospitalization." "God curse the Houthi militia, God curse the United Nations," she bursts, asking a torrent of questions: "Why do people have to die unnecessarily because of the siege. How many people need to die for the UN to do or say something about Taiz? Why is the UN totally and permanently blind when it comes to Houthi atrocities, especially the siege on Taiz." "Why does the UN hate us," she concludes the questions.
On the other bank, the besieged provincial capital, 30-year-old Imarah and her under-12 three kids are struggling with hunger and dengue fever. "We are hungry and sick," says the gaunt and frail mom as she gently strokes the heads of her two sick daughters cradled on her lap in the tent they live in Bia'rarah in the downtown. Lubna and Maram, her two daughters have dengue fever, a mosquito-borne endemic in its seasonal spike these days. The third child, Waseem, is playing nearby the tent. But Waseem and his two sisters have something in common: They are all weak and their ribs are protruding. The children's father is missing for months. "He abandoned us because he could no longer bring in food. Now we beg and hardly get some leftovers from houses. We go to bed hungry and wake up hungry," she says. "Even people you may think can make ends meet in the city and live in average houses are getting hungry these days since public salaries are too little and are not regularly paid." This is a bit of a condolence to her.
Although illiterate, Imarah is shrewd and had this thing to say in politics: "The Houthi siege around Taiz is the root of all problems: the hunger, the dysfunction of health services and the spread of diseases like dengue fever," she posits. "The UN has a remarkable tendency to ignore Taiz from among all Yemeni cities," she says, jaws clenching.
"In many cities like Sana'a and Aden, humanitarian aid from the UN reaches every home." "And houses stuffed over capacity with double donations sell extra cooking oil, rice and flour to shopkeepers. Although Taiz is the worst affected by this war, the UN does not have us in its mind."
Rayed Salah, 34 year old activist from the city, says, "the UN is more concerned about lifting the blockade of Sana'a airport which Houthis want to use for smuggling in arms than its concern about ending the extremists' siege on our city."
"The UN tendency to ignore the Houthi siege and concomitant miseries of it on Taiz is now more widely noticed and more exclamatory."