Yemen: a place of hunger and misery

Published on 4 January 2017 in Report
Yasser Rayes (author)

Yasser Rayes


hide
Mohanned, 5 years old, lies on a bed in the Abs hospital in Hajjah, a governorate in Yemen which has some of the highest numbers of severely and acutely malnourished children. (Photo © UNICEF/Fuad)

Mohanned, 5 years old, lies on a bed in the Abs hospital in Hajjah, a governorate in Yemen which has some of the highest numbers of severely and acutely malnourished children. (Photo © UNICEF/Fuad)

Hunger is the most dominant thought on Yemenis minds during this period. After months of living without their salaries, the public sector employees, the majority of employees in Yemen, are living in dire conditions. Neither the cabinet of the Internationally-recognized president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi nor Ansar Allah and the GPC’s power-sharing government, called the Supreme Political Council, have been able to pay the monthly YER 75 Billion salaries. Most Yemeni’s are living in very difficult and miserable conditions.

People are not able to pay their rent, utilities and hospital bills or for groceries. I spoke to Aleena Abdullah who has been collecting charity and Zakat for years and distributing it to all those who are in need including the homeless, orphans and the needy.

Talking about how things changed for her philanthropy activities during the past two years she said “Now people have consumed their savings and all they had stashed, some people sold their gold.”

This time people have sold everything, gold, cars, and furniture. Second hand markets are filled with furniture that has been sold cheap but no one is buying.

“Those who used to offer me things [financial and in kind assistance] to help others, are now asking me to help them with their rent” said Abdullah with grieve and sorrow.

2017 requirements

Abdullah supports 50 families, but only five families have constant support by philanthropists, as for the other 45 families, they receive support from time to time and not on fixed basis.

According to a UNICEF news note published on December 12 “Even before the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, Yemen faced challenges from widespread poverty, food insecurity and a dearth of health services. Now Yemen’s health system is on the verge of collapse.”

These challenges have become a reality. Poverty is more spread than ever, malnutrition rates are “at an all-time high and increasing” said Dr. Meritxell Relano, UNICEF Acting Representative in Yemen.

As for health services, the most entire Yemeni health system is down, it is partially running on aid provided by several organizations such as UNICEF and MSF, who provide everything from chlorine which is used to kill cholera in the water to insulin injections for diabetics who don’t have access to it or can’t afford it.

“A devastating toll for children”

In this war children are paying the heftiest bill. When they are not being recruited or brainwashed by war ideology they are sick with cholera and other watery diarrhea, selling items on street corners, or simply begging for cash or food.

Since Sana’a the capital is safer than other war-torn areas and provinces, IDPs come to find a safe haven for them inside the city. However, most of these IDPs have no source of income and are forced into begging with their kids throughout the day.

Families do not have enough to feed their children let alone pay for their medical bills, according to the UNCEIF “At least one child dies every ten minutes in Yemen because of preventable diseases such as diarrhea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infections”.

Going to school and having a normal life is not likely for Yemeni kids at this point of their lives. Kids in school uniform are seeing all over Sanaa’s streets selling simple items such as lemons or washing car windshields during traffic stops.

According to local NGOs, early marriage, child recruitment and prostitution levels are on the rise as a direct result of poverty.

No end in sight

In the meantime, parties to the conflict are showing no signs of retreat and Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed’s initiatives and roadmaps are repeatedly rejected by one or both sides of the conflict. And civilians continue to pay the price.

As of 31 October 2016, UNICEF had received US$137.9 million against the US$180 million appeal needed to address Yemenis various issues. However, in order to achieve all its goals in Yemen for 2017, the UNICEF needs US$235,248,126.