Yemenis' battle to survive deepens as conflict grinds on
Nearly four years of war have left 24.1 million children, women and men in urgent need of food, shelter, medical care and schooling.
Displaced Yemeni Hamamah (centre) sits with her siblings at the family's makeshift home in Aden, Yemen.
© UNHCR/Bathoul Ahmed
When she wakes up in her family’s fragile shack each morning, Hamamah faces the bitter reality of war in Yemen.
“Every day is a fight for survival. We do not know how or if we will eat,” says the gaunt 16-year-old.
Since heavy fighting drove her from her home in Taiz, a city in south-western Yemen, two years ago, the teenager has known nothing but bitter hardship.
With few options, Hamamah got married to ease the burden on her parents, already struggling to feed and provide for her siblings displaced by war.
“Everyday is a fight for survival. We do not know how or if we will eat.”
A few months ago, she gave birth to a stillborn girl. Her baby died because, Hamamah believes, she did not have enough to eat and could not pay for medical care.
“When I got pregnant I couldn’t afford to go see a doctor,” she says, her words punctuated with heavy sighs. "I remember feeling very weak throughout my pregnancy. We didn’t have enough to eat and I became increasingly weak; so I think my baby also became weak and she didn’t survive
It is difficult to call Hamamah’s residence a house. The structure which shelters her and her husband, Mohamed, looks more like a decaying garden shed. With no reliable paid work, Mohamed struggles to find the US$30 in rent that they have to pay each month.
“If we don’t pay the rent, we will be evicted,” she says. “I don’t know where we will go. Maybe we can build a small shelter on some land somewhere … I don’t know.”
As the war approaches a fourth anniversary in March, the family’s struggle grows more dire by the day. Each morning, Mohamed scrambles to find paid work, which makes the difference between the family eating or going hungry.
“Without work you are completely dependent on others… you are at people’s mercy. If I manage to get daily work, I can make three or four dollars a day; so we manage to buy some food…if not…” he trails off.
Hamamah and Mohamed are not alone in their suffering. Their desperate battle for survival is shared by most in Yemen, where 24.1 million people – more than three-quarters of the population – are in dire need of life-saving assistance.
Today, the United Nations and its humanitarian partners launched an appeal which seeks US$4.2 billion to provide vital aid to Yemenis in desperate need this year, including more than 3.3 million who, like Hamamah and Mohamed, have been uprooted by the war.
“Without work you are completely dependent on others… you are at people’s mercy."
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is leading the interagency protection response in Yemen. UNHCR and its partners are providing legal assistance to the most vulnerable – with an emphasis on issuing civil documents that are often lost when fleeing danger. UNHCR also provides counselling to address the mounting psychological impact as a result of the prolonged conflict.
Additionally, together with UN and NGO partners, UNHCR is working to improve living conditions on hosting sites for children, women and men uprooted by fighting across Yemen, by constructing transitional shelters, installing water and sanitation facilities and communal kitchens.
Where appropriate, UNHCR and its partners are also providing rental subsidies and cash grants to rehabilitate damaged houses. It aims to provide essential household items to displaced and highly vulnerable families across the country.
Without continued funding, humanitarian agencies will be forced to discontinue life-saving protection assistance and services to vulnerable people including women, children, the elderly, people with disabilities and survivors of gender-based violence, leading to further impoverishment and heightened vulnerability.