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Yemen Faces Massive Famine


The United Nations warned this week that about half of the people in Yemen - 14 million people - could soon be at risk of starving to death. It's a number so big it can obscure the desperation that so many Yemenis face in daily life. To try to understand these challenges, we're now joined by Sukaina Sharafuddin from Yemen's capital, Sanaa. She grew up in the city, and she's now a communications officer for Save the Children. Thank you so much for being with us.


SIMON: What's life like there?

SHARAFUDDIN: Life in here is really, really complicated. It's really terrifying that I can best explain as a nightmare that we're not able to seem to wake up from. And by the day, it just deteriorates.

SIMON: You've been in the countryside.

SHARAFUDDIN: Yes. The children that you see in there are just completely skin and bones. Many families are living on the street. They have lost their homes. Airstrikes are falling of the skies every single night. And diseases such as cholera and diphtheria just spread widely.

SIMON: And how much of the war do you see?

SHARAFUDDIN: I see a lot of the war. It's everywhere. It's just - it feels like we are back on time where hundred years back where we worry about every single thing. For example, I wake up in the morning and you worry, will I have electricity? These days, it's very cold. We cannot have heaters. Hospitals cannot operate because the shortage of fuel. And then when you go to the supermarkets, the prices have either doubled or tripled. A family that lives near to my parents, a neighbor of theirs, actually lost their child because they simply didn't have a single thing to feed them - no water, no clean water, no food. So it's really, really crazy to believe that you're in the 2018.

SIMON: Yeah. What happens when you go to the market? What's for sale there? How much does it cost?

SHARAFUDDIN: I'll just give you a quick example - eggs actually. In the past, we used to buy five eggs with 100 riyals but now just over the past couple of months, you buy one egg with 100 riyal. So it's becoming very hard. People will just lock themselves in their houses. And others who are trying to find a solution, they go out in the streets asking for help, but the rest are just dying inside their houses quietly. Sometimes they boil water and just put some spices on top of it and consider it a meal.

SIMON: I'm told you have a 2-year-old.

SHARAFUDDIN: Yes. He's almost 3 now.

SIMON: And how's he doing? Can you get food for him?

SHARAFUDDIN: Yes. I'm very lucky. I'm just happy that I'm, you know, one of the minor groups here in Yemen who still has a job. I can provide for him and make sure that he's well fed and happy. But other parents - I really don't know how they manage it. It is very difficult. I asked a family of five, what's your plan for the coming month or the coming year? They said what month? What year? We just hoping for tomorrow if we survive tonight.

SIMON: Sukaina Sharafuddin of Save the Children speaking with us via Skype from Sanaa, Yemen, thanks so much for being with us.

SHARAFUDDIN: Thank you very much. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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