By Anees Mahyoub and Abdulrhman Al-Ansi
TAIZ, Yemen (Reuters) – Yemeni cancer patient Mohsen al-Najdi has to drive more than three hours along narrow mountain roads to receive chemotherapy he can barely afford in Taiz, a city which has been largely cut off from the rest of Yemen during a seven-year war.
Like other residents of the southwestern governorate, Najdi misses easier times when it took less than an hour from his rural home to Taiz, before Iran-aligned Houthis cut off the main routes and encircled the Yemeni government-held city centre.
“Sometimes I miss appointments because of a flat tire or other problems on the bumpy roads… since treatment is only available until 2 pm,” said Najdi, a 53-year-old teacher who has blood cancer.
Najdi, who lives with an extended family including the wife and two children of a deceased son, said he had to sell his possessions since his monthly salary of 80,000 rials (about $79) does not cover monthly treatment costs of 140,000 rials.
“I wanted to go to Cairo but I don’t have the means… God’s door is always open so maybe a benefactor will help,” he said.
Residents hope U.N.-sponsored talks between Yemen’s warring parties to re-open roads in Taiz will allow people in the city and surrounding areas to go to work and school and facilitate the flow of aid and goods.
A deal is also a vital trust-building measure to cement a rare truce that was extended for another two months on Thursday between the Saudi-backed government and the Houthi movement that largely controls North Yemen.
In Taiz city, the historic citadel perched on a rocky hill and an old mosque bear the scars of war. Many homes have been destroyed by shelling in the war between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis since 2015.
Taiz governorate has a population of five million, including 400,000 in the city, Yemen’s third largest. The Houthis control the governorate’s industrial areas, while the road closures have driven up food and fuel prices and disrupted access to basic services.
“The essentials of normal human life are missing in Taiz whether for education or health services. Many people die while travelling (the mountain roads),” said local resident Anisa al-Yousefi.
Another Taiz resident, Mohammed Mahrous, said he had not been able to visit relatives for seven years.
“It is depressing living under siege even inside the city, as if you are in a big prison,” he said.
(Reporting by Anees Mahyoub and Abdulrhman Al Ansi; Writing by Ghaida Ghantous; Editing by Gareth Jones)