How we’re scraping by through the Yemen war

Blogs, Emergencies, Rights in crisis article written on the 24 Mar 2017

This entry posted by Mujeeb Al-Jaradi, Deputy Program Manager in Oxfam Khamer Office.

Two years since the escalation of the conflict, life continues to get worse in Yemen.

After a short pause last summer, daily airstrikes have intensified across the country, accompanied by intense fighting between in many areas. Malnutrition is on the rise; cholera had been spreading until only recently; and the number of people in need continues to increase.

Our daily reality remains bleak. Every morning I face the uncertainty, as I step out to go to work, that I will return that evening. Or if I do, that I will still find my home and family alive.

Amran, Yemen: 11-year-old Moayed* is an IDP child from Sa’dah governorate who has been living in the Huth IDP camp for almost 20 months. Photo: Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi/Oxfam.

No electricity

Perhaps another way to describe the condition of daily life in Yemen is to say it is like having travelled 400 years back in time.

We have now got used to living without electricity, not even hopeful that we will have it. Generators are too expensive for the majority, and few have solar energy. I only have access to electricity when I am at work in the Oxfam office.

We have managed to go without power in our homes for so long now that it is almost hard to remember how life was with electric lights, refrigerators or television. Very few people use cars because of the prohibitive fuel price. There aren’t even taxis or public transport to speak of. Instead people have gone back to using that ever-dependable beast of burden — the donkey.

Our daily reality remains bleak. Every morning I face the uncertainty, as I step out to go to work, that I will return that evening. Or if I do, that I will still find my home and family alive.

Amran, Yemen: View of the Huth Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camp. Oxfam has installed a water tank in the camp that provides 228 households with drinking water. Photo: Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi/Oxfam

Healthcare disappearing

More significantly, we no longer enjoy the benefits of modern medicine: more than half of all health facilities in Yemen are closed, or partially functioning, and drugs are no longer readily available because they just do not get to Yemen. Last year my cousin passed away after recovering from a kidney transplant she had travelled to Egypt to receive.

As the airstrikes and blockades continued, the drugs to stop organ rejection became harder to come by and eventually, couldn’t be found. I appealed on Facebook and within hours, more than 70 people offered to help. They managed to get the drugs to me within about four or five days.

But by then my cousin was in decline and even with the drugs, she died after a week.

Amran, Yemen: Fatima and her child sit outside their tent, exposing themselves to the sunlight to try and keep them warm. Photo: Mohammed Al-Mekhlafi/Oxfam.

People are barely scraping by

Money is still king, but many people have sold most of their assets and have nothing left to sell. Few people have jobs and government salaries haven’t been paid in months. In addition to my wife and children, I also support an extended family of about 50 people with my sole salary. In the villages, my relatives are now growing cash crops to earn a bit of cash, but they no longer have the financial resources to cope with difficult periods or family emergencies.

Many families are living on one meal a day and others prioritise food for children to cope with its scarcity.

People with money can still get food, despite occasional shortages in the market. But even the food seems like something from the past, with very few imports and a very different diet from what we were eating before the war. Many families are living on one meal a day and others prioritise food for children to cope with its scarcity. For those without money, including those who had to flee their homes because of the bombings and the fighting, many have only managed to survive due to the kindness of strangers.

Bir Alhasee village, Yemen: Nemah and her family live in a small tent that they built themselves, which barely protects them from the cold and the weather. Nemah participated in Oxfam’s cash-for-work program, which gave her money to buy flour to cook for her children. “I try as much as possible to help my children to survive,” she says. Photo: Oxfam.

Oxfam is there

Oxfam and other humanitarian agencies are providing basic essentials including food and water and sanitation, as well as cash-for-work. By paying those in need to repair the water and sanitation infrastructure, we are giving them not only the chance to choose which food they want to buy but also giving them back their dignity.

To date, Oxfam has helped more than 57,000 people in Amran governorate, where I work, and more than one million across the country. It is, however, a small number compared to the millions on the brink of starvation in Yemen.

Amran, Yemen: Men sit next to an Oxfam water tank in Huth IDP camp. Photo: Kate Wiggins/Oxfam.

Our lives have diminished

The only thing that we still have to remind us that we haven’t travelled four centuries back in a time machine is the mobile phone. With these, we can still keep in touch with family and friends, and with the outside world. But these only work thanks to the few people who have generators and who provide what has become an essential community service, the charging of our mobile phones.

Even with intermittent use of phones and the internet, my social life has been reduced to family and friends where I live: I no longer travel for weddings or funerals or other big social gatherings. Many of those have been targeted by warring parties. Our lives have diminished in an ever decreasing circle.

Don’t forget Yemen

Currently, the international media focus on the war in Syria, its devastating impact and the huge number of refugees flooding into different parts of the globe. The Yemeni crisis is largely forgotten, with the country under total blockage and few journalists allowed to enter. With all the borders blocked, there is also no exit for the people suffering due to the conflict, so they are forced to stay and find a way to survive as best they can.

Let’s continue to work so that Yemen doesn’t become a forgotten crisis.

* Names changed to protect identity.

Global hunger, famine and food security

The people of Yemen are experiencing one of the world’s gravest humanitarian crises, with 7 million people on the brink of starvation.

Donate Now