Fawzia Al-Ammar, researcher at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies in Yemen.
Yemenis in a large swathe of the country are subjected to the horrors of war by land, sea, and air, disrupting lives to a greater degree than Yemen has the capacity to handle. The war has meant tens of thousands of people have lost loved ones, including household breadwinners. It has left its mark on the faces of Yemeni children in particular. Young men and women have plunged into despair and depression, with their academic performance suffering, or drop out of school altogether because of their families’ financial situations, war-related stress, and their inability to focus on studies. And when other sources for an honest living have dried up, young men find themselves forced by financial reality to became combatants.
A survey of 902 children aged 8-18 in public schools for displaced children in Sanaa during the 2015-2016 academic year, using the Child PTSD Symptoms Scale adjusted for the Yemeni environment by the author, showed that 79 percent (712) of these children were suffering from PTSD. The PTSD symptoms include flashbacks to traumatic events, fatigue disorder, and emotional stress, but also manifest as difficulty showing emotions of sadness or happiness. The survey subjects also complained of restless sleep, nightmares, feelings of frustration, poor concentration, declining grades, fear, and avoiding places or objects likely to trigger flashbacks.
A 2018 study published by the Family Counseling and Development Foundation, a Yemeni NGO, examined people over 16 years old from across Yemen, with Sanaa overrepresented with 59.2 percent of the survey participants. The results showed that participants were suffering from anxiety disorder (3.25 percent), depression (2.3 percent), and PTSD (0.7 percent). Overall, 19.5 percent of survey participants had any kind of psychological disorder, suggesting that around five million Yemenis do as well. Yemeni women suffer disproportionately—according to the survey, women make up 81 percent of Yemenis with psychological issues.
While organizations such as the Family Counseling and Development Foundation offer some psychological counseling services, as the war goes into its fourth year, the pressure on them is escalating. Health services are in tatters, and conditions are only worsening for those suffering from psychological trauma. Psychological services are few and far between—only 44 psychiatrists practice across only four psychiatric hospitals in Yemen, all in the major cities of Sanaa, Aden, Taiz, and Hodeidah—giving a hint of the level of human suffering in Yemen.
This article was translated from Arabic.