“The Siege Is Killing Us,” Say Civilian Volunteers In Yemen

May 05, 2015 at 4:45 PM ET

Nazar Sraro has no time to mince words.

“The siege is killing us,” he tells Vocativ from inside Aden, Yemen’s ravaged seaport city. A lawyer by trade, the 35-year-old now works day and night as a volunteer medic, struggling to treat the wounded and the sick without medicine.

“They are dying slowly,” Sraro says.

Weeks of Saudi-led airstrikes, coupled with fighting between local militias and Houthi rebels, have pulverized Aden’s neighborhoods. Supplies have dwindled among survivors caught in the midst of the fighting. Vocativ spoke with civilian volunteers on those front lines, whose photos and stories capture the deepening humanitarian crisis.

They say families are now surviving on hard boiled eggs and tea made from fetid water salvaged in the days before taps dried up. In large swaths of the city, the electricity supply stopped long ago. Civilian homes are regularly shot up by Houthi gunfire.

While those wounded in battle require an ever-shrinking number of hospital beds, there are countless others who need medical attention for common diseases and chronic ailments who also can’t be helped.

“Medical aid can’t enter Aden,” says Majd Azan, 37, a volunteer who is stationed in the northern part of the city. “There’s been no dialysis for people with kidney failure.” He says some of those patients suffered excruciating deaths.

There are few and stark options for those who need immediate medical treatment. They can attempt to cross Houthi lines, or they can try to escape the city by sea. Many are opting for the latter.

“There are boats full of people—mostly sick people now,” Azan says.

The United Nations says more than 1,000 Yemenis have died since the conflict began in March. At least 300,000 people have been displaced. The crushing toll has been especially felt in Aden, where Houthi rebels leveled neighborhoods and blew up homes in an effort to capture the city. A Saudi-led coalition has responded with repeated airstrikes that have done their own, extensive damage.

Attempts to beat back the Houthis intensified on Sunday when Yemeni fighters, purportedly trained by Gulf states, stormed the city and clashed with the Iranian-allied rebels. But that’s done little to alleviate the dire situation for Yemenis.

Sraro and Azan both say that international aid has still not arrived, and they’re struggling to make do with what little resources they have left.

“We need airdrops from helicopters to survive,” Sraro says. “The limited supplies we have here are almost gone.”

“There’s a siege, and the last phase will be starvation,” says Azan. “This is what [the Houthis] are trying to do.”