In Yemen, Agony Continues As Civilians 'Bear The Brunt'
KELLY MCEVERS, HOST:
Here's a startling figure. The U.N. says 80 percent of Yemen's 25 million people are now in need of some kind of humanitarian aid. To see some of those people, you can look at the Twitter feed of Rasha Mohamed of Amnesty International. She's in Yemen documenting how people have been displaced from homes that are now piles of rubble.
ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
They were destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes aimed at Houthi rebels who drove out Yemen's president. Since March, 3,000 people have been killed in the strikes - more than half, civilians.
MCEVERS: Rasha Mohamed just returned from northern Yemen, a Houthi stronghold. She says for the people there, the situation is especially dire.
RASHA MOHAMED: They tell us that we don't have enough to eat. Things don't get to them. There is no petrol. They can't get out of their areas at times. And if there is these things, they can't afford them. This is the biggest issue right now in Yemen. It's getting worse and worse.
MCEVERS: So food and fuel - the prices for that have shot up.
MOHAMED: Oh, yes. A bag of flour has quadrupled, if not more. Same with fuel. A cylinder of cooking gas would've been around 1,200 Yemeni riyals at one point. Now it goes up to 5,000 Yemeni rials, which is very difficult for a family that's trying to cook for 20 members.
MCEVERS: You've also spent time in Yemen's capital, Sana'a. That's where you are now, right?
MOHAMED: Yes, I am here.
MCEVERS: Is the situation a little bit better there?
MOHAMED: Yes. Sana'a has not been as hard-hit as other areas, I would say. In Sana'a, they tend to focus on military infrastructure, airports, military locations and camps. Every now and then, they focus on airstrikes on the leadership, where their house has been taken over by some individuals from the Houthi armed group or a leader from the Houthi armed group in Houthi-controlled areas. And that's when civilians get caught in the middle and bear the brunt, so they might either miss their targets, or they might hit the actual house and shrapnel might kill civilians in the area.
MCEVERS: Have you documented actual cases where that happened?
MOHAMED: Yes. Last week, on the 2nd of July, bombardment was very heavy in Sana'a. The house that was intended to be targeted belongs to someone who lives outside the country. He lives in Saudi. However, his house had been taken over by individuals from the Houthi armed group. The airstrike missed that house and hit the house next-door where a caretaker and his family - nine children, his wife - live in. So the caretaker actually - when we arrived, had already lost his son, Sammie, who's around 5. And there were two children still under rubble when we arrived at 2:00 p.m. They couldn't dig them out until 1:00 a.m. the next day. And Sheha (ph), who's 14, and Mohammed (ph), who's 6, unfortunately...
MCEVERS: Did they survive?
MOHAMED: No. He lost three kids.
MCEVERS: We're now seeing reports that Yemen's government in exile - the government that's based in Saudi Arabia - has told the United Nations that it will pause these airstrikes if the Houthis agree to release prisoners and withdraw from territory. I mean, do you think this is something that could work?
MOHAMED: I think a pause to the fighting would be very much welcomed. However, I think what needs to happen is an end to this crisis. The country - prior to this conflict, 60 percent of the population was aid dependent. Now it's 80 percent of the country aid dependent. Plus, dengue fever is spreading. People are internally displaced. I think this humanitarian pause that's been suggested is just a really short-term solution. In fact, the last humanitarian pause was broken by armed groups in Aden and in Taiz, though I don't think it's going to help in the long or short run.
MCEVERS: Rasha Mohamed with Amnesty International in Yemen right now. Thank you so much.
MOHAMED: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.