An electrical engineer by trade, Mohammad, a Yemeni refugee living in Jordan, had worked for 18 years managing the electrical network in Sanaa before the conflict hit. “Before the war I had never even contemplated leaving my country,” he explains, “but then I felt scared. Scared for my son and his future.”
Now though after being forced to sell his house and car back in Yemen in order to pay for the flight to Jordan and subsequent cost of living, Mohammad has been in Jordan for the last four years. “One month turned into two, then into a year, and then time just passes.” His son, who was only six years old when they arrived, is now ten, and Mohammad jokes that he his almost more Jordanian than Yemeni despites his own efforts to teach him about their country and heritage.
As well as finding safety, fleeing to Jordan also meant that Mohammad has been able to seek treatment for his elderly mother. Struck with liver cancer, she was only able to get limited treatment in Yemen as many of the hospitals had been closed or damaged due to fighting. But in Jordan, getting the chemotherapy she needs has come at a cost as non-Syrian refugees have to pay the foreigner rate to access public hospitals.
Mohammad explains that this has been an incredible financial strain on his family. “All her teeth fell out because of the chemotherapy, but I can’t afford to take her to the dentist. You are forced to make choices on things you never imagined.”
In order to support his family, Mohammad initially took any job going in the informal labor market to get some cash for the essentials. But as non-Syrian refugees are not allowed to work in Jordan, he was frequently not paid for the work he did and treated badly by employers, which he explains is very common among his friends – “unfortunately I have heard so many stories of Yemeni refugees being abused at work, of being forced to work long house, they know they have no rights but how else are they supposed to live.”
Mohammad, however, has been one of the lucky ones. Two years ago, he saw an advert at Nuzha Community Center looking for Yemeni refugees to be a part of its Community Support Committee, of which he is now a part. He says he is proud to be a voice for his community; bringing attention to the daily issues and challenges they face in discussions with UNHCR.
“I get calls from Yemeni refugees in Jordan all the time now because of my role. Most of their problems center around money and health. One of my friends recently had to wait over a year to get the surgery he needed because of a lack of money and they wouldn’t prioritize scheduling his appointment because he was a refugee.”
With some 15,000 Yemeni refugees living in Jordan, Mohammad is determined to try and advocate on their behalf through his position at Nuzha.