‘Shells still land in our areas’: Ramadan in war-torn Taiz

Yemenis suffer from limited access to food and water during the holy month, after more than three years of war.

Hisham Mohamed Saleh promised to treat his children to sweets and candies after iftar – the meal Muslims eat after a long day of fasting during Ramadan – but with skyrocketing poverty and inflation rates, it’s unlikely he’ll be able to spoil them much further.

For more than three years, Houthi rebels have besieged Yemen’s second-largest city of Taiz, putting more than 200,000 civilians like as the Saleh family in harm’s way.

Most of the city has been thrust into poverty, with frequent reports of food and water shortages and hospitals struggling to function without access to medical supplies.


“Despite the siege and the tough situation, Ramadan is always a happy moment,” Saleh, a father of three, told Al Jazeera.

“We enjoy the month and so do our children, despite the shells landing on our streets.”

Throughout the Muslim world, the holy month has been celebrated as a joyful and spiritual occasion, with special meals and tasty treats prepared at sunset.


But with more than 75 percent of all Yemenis – or about 22 million people – in need of aid, and seven million facing famine, Saleh hopes this year’s Ramadan will usher in a temporary truce and spare thousands from death.

Ramadan under siege

Typically, Yemenis shopped for food and gifts during the late hours of the Ramadan day, but a shortage of currency and a depreciation in the exchange rate has left many with little purchasing power.

About 1.2 million civil servants have not received their salaries for the past 14 months – in an effort by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis to force the group into submission.

“The war and the siege have pushed up the prices of basic goods, and people still haven’t received their salaries,” one resident told Al Jazeera.


Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has been at war in Yemen, trying to expel the Houthis, who are widely believed to be backed by the kingdom’s regional rival, Iran.

Since then, more than 10,000 people have been killed and at least 40,000 wounded, mostly from Saudi-led air raids.

In retaliation, the Houthis have launched dozens of missiles at the kingdom. Saudi authorities say over the past three years 90 ballistic missiles have been fired at the kingdom by the rebels.

With many struggling to get their hands on basic necessities, shoppers drawn to markets during previous Ramadans have disappeared.

“Prices are rising, and that’s a huge burden for us,” a shop owner told Al Jazeera.

“I used to buy goods for a cheap price now that’s impossible.”

Source: Al Jazeera