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World

Yemen Sees Renewed Fighting Over The Weekend

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

There's been renewed fighting over the weekend in Yemen, with dozens of people killed. That's according to local media. The conflict there is complicated because of the different international players. Saudi Arabia is backing the Yemeni government and leading airstrikes against the Houthi rebels - that's a group that has backing from Iran. The U.S. is involved, too. America is Saudi Arabia's ally and chief arms supplier. And the U.S. is conducting its own drone strikes against al-Qaida in Yemen.

To get a sense of how people are living through this crisis at this moment, we're going to speak now with Hisham al-Omeisy. He's an independent political commentator who lives in the capital, Sana'a.

Thank you so much for being with us.

HISHAM AL-OMEISY: Thank you for having me, Rachel.

MARTIN: I understand you live in Sana'a with your family. Can you just give us a sense of what a day is like in Sana'a?

OMEISY: Well, the situation has been rapidly deteriorating. The Saudi-led coalition has been imposing a nationwide blockade in addition, of course, to the war. And since Yemen imports almost 90 percent of its food as well as fuel, it's choking the local population. It's a really bad situation on the ground.

MARTIN: How do people make ends meet? I mean, literally, what do you go through to have to get food and supplies?

OMEISY: Well, my family is one of the fortunate ones. I'm well-off, when almost 95 percent of the Yemeni population are not. I can go out and buy some stuff, whatever is still available. The prices have almost tripled for foodstuffs, and there's little left in the market. And a lot of people depend on alms - some of the well-off people give the poor some money - but that's not enough, which is why a lot of people are reliant on aid organizations. You see long lines of people, like, for wheat, for rice, for water. The U.N. has repeatedly said it's one of the worst humanitarian catastrophes in the world today. Yet, aid is not flowing in.

MARTIN: Are schools still open? Are your kids still in school? Are their friends still in school?

OMEISY: I'm sure you must have heard of repeated airstrikes against schools. The Saudis have justified those airstrikes because they say the Houthis are basically recruiting child soldiers. But there are still some schools open. Unfortunately, in my case for instance, I let my kids go to school, but three times a week, I run and I pull them out of school because of the airstrikes intensifying. I don't want them to just stay home. They need to go to school. But I also don't want to risk it.

MARTIN: So what does this mean for you, for your family? Do you imagine that you will still be able to build a future in Sana'a, in Yemen?

OMEISY: Well, currently, we're hoping that the U.N. is going to intervene with a solid plan. Unfortunately, the track record for the U.N. has been really bad. For the last three attempts, they fell apart. Secretary Kerry actually came up with a really good plan. But unfortunately, the Saudis backed out of it, the Yemeni legitimate government backed out of it, and Secretary Kerry ran out of time. He proposed that plan in October, which was near his term, so nobody really took it seriously. And when he left office, they dropped the plan and came up with a totally different and new plan. They're hoping that it would run into play, but I highly doubt it will. So for us here in Yemen, we know we're in it for the long haul.

MARTIN: Hisham al-Omeisy - he spoke to us from the Yemeni capital of Sana'a. He lives there with his wife and children.

Thank you so much.

OMEISY: Thank you for having me, Rachel. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.