Letter from Sana’a: ‘I heard a huge explosion near our home’.

A Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen more than 940 days ago. I thought I might get used to the sound of jets roaring overhead day and night.

The truth is, my wife and I relive the terror each time we hear those jets.

Yemen has been devastated by a war that began in 2015.

The Houthi movement, widely believed to be supported by Iran, is on one side. It controls the capital, Sana'a, where we live, and the northern half of the country. On the other side is the ousted government in exile, which is backed by Saudi Arabia but controls only parts of the south. Radical Islamists control much of what is in between. Thousands of people have been killed, including many women and children.


A week ago, the Houthis fired a missile towards the airport in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, their closest strike so near a major city in the kingdom. I knew the Saudis would respond. They struck the Central Security Headquarters, about 200m from our home. Then the bombing became much worse.

It was around 7.40pm local time on November 6. My wife and our 1-year-old son, Khaled, were playing in the living room on the second floor of our home. I was out in the streets when I heard a huge explosion. I knew it was near our home. I rushed back to find my wife holding our son and hiding under the dining table. Khaled was crying. I crouched under the table and hugged them both. At that moment, I felt my heart tear into pieces, not knowing what to do to make my son's fears go away.

A few minutes later, we heard the trembling sound of a missile flying over our heads before it struck and shook the ground, shattering the windows on top of us. Then a third strike, and a fourth. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless as you see your loved ones terrified and frightened. No child should have to live with such turmoil. After the attacks stopped, my wife put our exhausted son to bed. I started picking up the broken glass and covering the windows with plastic to stop the cold from coming in. I stayed up that night worrying what the coming days would hold for us.

The next morning, I saw drivers waiting in long lines at service stations. On other streets, people filled containers with cooking gas. Prices at grocery stores have gone up. Usually, those who can afford it rush to buy large quantities of food to prepare for the next crisis. This time, many have been unable to shop because they haven't been paid in almost a year.

Saudi Arabia announced last week that it was temporarily closing all of Yemen's ground, sea and air ports in retaliation for the missile strike near Riyadh, though it said it had reopened two ports in government-held areas days later. Most Yemenis are deeply concerned that they won't have access to medicine and even basic food in coming months. A fuel crisis has started again, and prices of everything will soon rise even higher.

You can see the worry and uncertainty on the faces of people in the street. We are back to square one, but it is much darker now. Any blink of hope that our suffering will soon be over has gone with the wind.

Millions at risk
•The World Food Programme estimates the number of Yemenis needing aid has risen to 20 million from 17 million last year.
•That's more than two-thirds of the population.
•7 million are facing famine-like conditions and rely completely on food aid to survive.
•More than 2 million children are malnourished, and almost 400,000 of those suffer from severe malnutrition.
•More than 11 million children need humanitarian aid.
•Dozens of ships carrying food and supplies to Yemen have been stopped since 2015 by warships belonging to Saudi Arabia and its allies.
•They are seeking to stop arms reaching Houthi fighters seeking to overthrow the Government.
•Attacks on hospitals and health facilities have increased by a third in the last year.
•A cholera epidemic has infected about 900,000 people in Yemen and killed more than 2100 since April.

- additional reporting AAP