• Oxfam has been working hard to improve water and sanitation services, as well as the livelihoods of people living in poverty. Since 2015, we’ve reached more than three million Yemeni people with clean water, food vouchers, cash transfers and hygiene kits as part of our emergency response.

    With the arrival of Covid-19, we refocused our work to respond. Across Yemen, we’re training community health volunteers to spread the word about the virus and the importance of hygiene and hand washing.

Aisha’s story - Sa’adah IDP - Yemen

Aishah with her sisters Wafa* and Zahrah* in their open kitchen with empty dinnerware. They are vulnerable and have no source of income. *Names have been changed to protect identities. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

We had to flee from Malaheedh to Mazraq camp, where we used to be fine with the help of an INGO.

Then we had to flee airstrikes to Hudaydah, but the conditions were unimaginably harsh-we barely could eat.

We had to flee on foot. We left all our assets and carried what we could. We walked distances barefoot under the sun and many times slept under the rain. My brother helped us escape and accompanied us to this place and helped build this small shelter, but he has his own struggles and returned to take care of his family. I carried one blanket and a little bag of clothes.

It has been three years since we were displaced to this camp.

I live with a constant feeling of oppression as I have nothing at all. My children need to eat, clothes to wear and they always get sick. I get them to agencies providing emergency medical care as I’ll never afford long term medical care.

Aishah in her open kitchen with empty dinnerware. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

Here I don’t get any help. My children always go when there is news of distributions of food like flour, oil, or beans. Sometimes they come back with something, but many times they return empty-handed. I sometimes go with them despite my illness.

I have three boys and one girl -the oldest is 10 years old. I also have to care for my sister’s now 11-month-old girl. My husband and I got divorced and we lost contact with him. He could’ve been kidnapped or killed.

I’m their breadwinner. With my four kids and my niece, we go out every day collecting plastic bottles and metal cans to sell for recycling, and with the little we earn, we buy food to eat. I always go out with all my kids to earn for food, unless one of them is sick.

All I earn from selling plastic and metal cans goes to whatever food I can afford. I’ve never earned enough to last for the next day. I already struggle to get milk for my infant girl and rarely get to buy diapers. I buy one bottle of milk (300ml) for whole day and night.

On a lucky day, we earn 1700 –2000 YR (almost $3) and I can buy yogurt, a few vegetables and bread. I buy flour when I can and make bread. I use cardboard boxes or newspapers to make my cooking fires -wood or gas are privileges I can never to afford. I make lunch and if there are leftovers, my children have that for dinner, but we’re used to sleeping with empty stomachs.

Daily meals: if enough is earned

Breakfast: Yogurt

Lunch: A few vegetables –if I earn more than 2000YR, I buy half a chicken I‘m usually able to once a week. When we haven’t earned anything, I ask people for bread and that’s all we have to eat.

Wafa* and Zahrah* eating some charity stale bread. It is the only food available to them (11:00 PM / they have not eaten any breakfast). *Names have been changed to protect identities. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

Our most common meal is bread with yogurt.

Many times, I have nothing at all to give my children to eat for over a day.

Today for breakfast we had only hard loaves of leftover bread from yesterday. Yesterday we had nothing at all, until some people passed by giving away bread. They were saviours.

Most of the time, our daily meal could be one yogurt only, or few potatoes or bread when there is some. Other times it’s nothing at all.

“Most of the times, when we have little to nothing to eat, I struggle to get my children to sleep at night. They ask for food and I try to distract them, telling them stories and speaking to them until they’re asleep, then I look at them and pray for a better life until I get stolen by sleep.”

I have experienced harsh situations where my children ask me for more food, and I have nothing to give them. They ask me why we cannot eat chicken, meat, etc... It burns my heart, but I try to stay strong, I’ve great deal of patience and faith in Almighty God. It was painful in the beginning as I attempted to teach my children to be patient, and then they got used to it. For years now, a day goes without breakfast, another without lunch or dinner. When I earn little extra, I rush to get them the little I can afford of what they desire to eat.

My hope is that my kids get to eat what they want. I wonder if they’ll ever get to eat meat or fish? I don’t recall the last time we had a decent meal. I just hope they get to live happily and get what they want.

I hope this war ends and that I get a sewing machine and fabric to be able to produce something and have a decent sustainable income that saves me and my children from the struggle and suffering. I hope INGOs help us with cash to buy food or provide us emergency food assistance. We need programmes that builds our resilience and restores livelihoods.

Yemenis in Marib are running out of options

by Ruth James, Regional Humanitarian Coordinator - Middle East and North Africa

26th May 2021

143 displacement camps have sprung up in recent years around Marib. Each time there is an escalation in fighting, a new wave of people flee towards Marib and its surrounds, which now hosts over one million displaced people. Photo: Ruth James/Oxfam

“We are just waiting to die”

This is what Fatma* said when I met her in a displacement camp near Marib City, in Yemen. It was the third time she had been forced to flee since war broke out in Yemen six years ago. She arrived in this new camp just 27 days ago. Fatma was at a focus group discussion for displaced women led by Oxfam’s Senior Gender Officer for South Yemen, Reena Haitham.

143 such camps have sprung up in recent years around Marib. Each time there is an escalation in fighting, a new wave of people flee towards Marib and its surrounds, which now hosts over one million displaced people. More than 20,000 people have arrived in the last two months alone.

Why do they come?

Simply, they have nowhere else to go. Many have strong tribal links with people already living both in the city and the camps. Marib is Yemen’s oil and gas capital and all parties involved in this conflict have said publicly they will fight to the death for Marib.

This camp is in the heart of desert. It is battered by winds, floods and simmering heat. It is made up of makeshift shelters that people here say are not good enough even for their animals. The rainy season is just starting and Fatma says, “we will not be able to sleep soon because we will be in the water.”

When I say to the women it’s hot (it’s about 40 degrees), they laugh and say I should come back in two months. Then it will be really hot, they tell me.

This camp is in the heart of desert. It is battered by winds, floods and simmering heat. Its made up of makeshift shelters that people here say are not good enough even for their animals. Photo: Ruth James/Oxfam

In the last 27 days, they say they have received little support from anyone, except from a neighbouring IDP camp which has been there for a year. They rely on their neighbours for water, but there is hardly enough. Oxfam is planning to start providing assistance into this specific camp in the coming weeks.

Most of the women I speak to are widows. Their husbands have been killed either in the fighting, or when fleeing from the last IDP camp. They tell of shelling on civilian camps and say they do not feel safe. Gradually, they’re selling off their assets like livestock and jewellery in order to survive.  

Most are not educated and, even if they could get a job, culturally it is not accepted and employment could put their safety at risk.

There is not a single latrine in this settlement of around 450 people. Women go into the desert in groups at sundown to use the bathroom. There are snakes out there. One woman in the group lost her hand after she was bitten.  There are no menstrual hygiene materials so women either have to use dirty cloths, or nothing at all. They have no soap. They say their water is their most urgent need. Disease is widespread and there are no health clinics nearby.

Another woman, Hanan, showed me inside her shelter. It is 2.5m square. It sleeps her family of seven.

Violence continues unabated

Ramadan is supposed to be the peaceful month but conflict is intensifying in Marib by the day.

Recently workers for Oxfam’s local partner Benevolence Coalition for Humanitarian Relief (BCHR) were registering families in a camp to receive cash support. A missile landed about 100m away, injuring many and killing two women. Everyone in the camp was then moved to another, larger camp. This is the daily struggle people and humanitarian workers endure because of this unabated wretched war.

I spoke with Khadija, a mother of four, who fled after the missile landed in her camp. She told me that she had been forced to move three times already, and that over a year ago her husband disappeared in the fighting. She has no idea if he is alive or dead.

Khadija has no relatives to rely on for support. She says the cash Oxfam gave helped to buy food, nappies and formula for her baby.

I am neither on land nor in the sky, I don’t know if my husband is killed or still alive. I am I limbo.

What is Oxfam doing?

Oxfam and BCHR have provided life-saving cash to 1280 households in other camps and plan to start supporting the camp I visited soon. But this is just a drop in the ocean compared to what people in Marib need. It’s overwhelming. Their lives – and the work to support them – is further complicated by the fact that people have to keep moving as the conflict inches closer to them day-by-day.

We urgently need funding to provide for both those displaced and the communities that are hosting them, with clean water and sanitation, cash assistance to buy food and essential items such as soap, hygiene products, livelihood opportunities and access to basic services. The rainy season will start this month and their shelters will not be able to withstand the rain and wind. It is highly likely that cholera will increase.

Yemenis are running out of options, and unless the international community steps up support, many like Fatema and Khadija fear for their future.

Parties involved in this conflict must enforce a ceasefire now to save lives, and allow people to re-build.

Since July 2015, Oxfam has helped more than 3 million people in nine governorates of Yemen with clean water and sanitation, cash assistance and food vouchers, as well as gender and protection services – our supporters are central to this response. To date, we have reached over 35,000 people in Marib with life-saving aid, and we aim to reach many more. However, the best way of helping the people of Yemen is by implementing an immediate ceasefire and finding a peaceful solution to the conflict.

* Names have been changed

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Yemen, six years at war

Ammar bin Yasser camp

Home to 1,785 people, families here have fled terrifying violence in search of safety. Oxfam is helping people stay safe from disease in the crowded camp by training heath volunteers, providing clean water and handwashing stations, fixing toilets and distributing hygiene kits full of essentials.

Hanan lives in Ammar bin Yasser IDP camp with her young daughters. As a single mother she provides all food, water and medicine for her children, often resorting to scavenging for plastic bottles to raise a little income. Photo: VFX Aden / Oxfam

I was living in Al Hudaydah. My children were going to school. We fled our home because of war, as we were vulnerable to the bombing and hearing its roar over our heads from inside the house. We were living in constant fear ... when we saw the shrapnel and other exploded objects flying into our houses, we were afraid for our children to be hit by it, so we fled. Leaving behind our homes, clothes and our floor mattresses, we fled with our children.

Khalid lives in Ammar bin Yasser camp with his wife and children. He makes a small income by collecting empty drinks bottles and cans to sell to the scrap dealer for money to provide food and medicine for his family. Photo: VFX Aden / Oxfam

When I was in Al Hudaydah, I had a house. I was earning a living. My children were going to school. My sons were in the first, second and third grades, my daughter in the sixth grade. The school was close to our home and well-equipped. I was capable of providing them with school bags, textbooks and notebooks, everything they needed, even giving them their daily school expenses. But here, I can't enrol them in school because they will say, 'Dad, where is our daily school expenses?' I am incapable of providing 100 YR.

Saeed is an Oxfam Community Health Volunteer and lives in Ammar bin Yasser camp with his wife and children. Saeed received training from Oxfam and now helps to educate and raise awareness of good hygiene practices. Photo: VFX Aden / Oxfam

We came from rural areas and suffered to get to Aden. Before I fled Al Hudaydah I was working for a company, I was comfortable, and I had a house. When the war broke out, the area that I bought the house became a military outpost and the job that I had at a Yemani company, I lost it because factory that I was working in was bombed. Consequently, the company laid us off. I became unemployed, my sons have dropped out of school and I lost my house as the area became a military outpost.

Ammar bin Yasser IDP camp is home to 1785 people. Photo: VFX Aden / Oxfam

Oxfam's work in the camp involves latrine rehabilitation, water points construction and rehabilitation, handwashing facilities installation, distribution of cleaning tools and bins, and hygiene kit distribution. In addition, community health volunteers are recruited and trained in health promotion to educate and raise awareness of good hygiene practices within the community.

Isra Specialist Hospital

Six years of war have devastated Yemen’s health care system. And now, Covid-19 intensifies the situation. With a shortage of staff, supplies and electricity, those hospitals that remain open, or even standing, struggle to meet the needs of Yemen’s millions of sick and starving people.

Abdul-Wahab is a doctor at Isra Hospital. Photo: Ameen-ALGhabri / Oxfam

As a poor country, in addition to the war, the health situation is very poor due to the lack of resources and the immigration of doctors, on top of the fact that the citizens cannot pay the high costs of treatment, and all this has worsened after the war.

Khaled Nasr is the Director at Isra Hospital. Photo: Ameen-ALGhabri / Oxfam

Among the challenges that the hospital faces is the lack of fuel, because all our work relies heavily on electricity such as sterilisers, lighting, and devices that are used during operations and surgery.

The other challenge is the lack of medicines and materials needed to conduct operations, because we are under siege, and this siege causes some materials to be cut off.

Solar panels provide power to the hospital

According to the World Bank, Yemen has the lowest level of electricity connection in the Middle East, with only 40 percent of the population having access to electricity.

The current fuel shortage threatens to further exacerbate the humanitarian situation, also impacted by Covid-19. The shortages have led to an exorbitant rise in fuel prices on the black market across northern governorates and inflated the cost of water, transport, food and other goods.

With the support of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and its local partner, Oxfam has provided 27 healthcare facilities across Yemen with solar micro-grids and solar-power refrigerators, benefitting more than 208,000 people.

Oxfam’s water project in Al Dhale’e city

Water is life. Without safe, clean water, disease spreads, and people die. And the relentless war means water systems go unmaintained or destroyed. But in Al Dhale’e city, Oxfam is working to deliver water to everyone.

Al-Dhale was one of the worst affected governorates by the conflict when it first escalated in 2015. Fierce fighting resulted in the destruction of basic public infrastructures, including the public water supply network. Even before the conflict escalated, the water scheme that fed Al-Dhale city had started to collapse due to lack of money to maintain it. In the midst of conflict, the water facilities have been further exposed to robbery and looting. This comes on top of the physical damage the conflict has left on buildings and water tanks.

Oxfam coordinated with the Local Water and Sanitation Corporation in Al-Dhale for the rehabilitation of some components of the water scheme. Work involved rehabilitation of the three re-pumping stations in Hajar, Al-Soda and Sanah areas and the connection of two other wells with the re-pumping station in Al-Soda. Oxfam also rehabilitated a supply line measuring over 10km and replaced a supply pipeline that was over 1km long. Provision of fuel was also critical in ensuring smooth water supply to the elevated water tank of Al-Dhale city.

The most challenging part of rehabilitating the water supply scheme was bringing water through this network of pipes and re-pumping stations to the tank in Al-Dhale city. Funds from UNICEF, KFW and other Oxfam affiliates allowed for the success of the project, bringing water to the tank for the first time in nine years.

In all, 20,000 people are now able to access running water who couldn’t before. However, in Al-Dhale city, water still can’t yet reach residents because the city’s water distribution network has yet to be fixed and the local water corporation needs fuel to operate.

Haneen* with her step-children. VFX Aden / Oxfam

Before the implementation of the water project, our life was in a miserable condition. We were fetching water from the well and carrying it using animals. Sometimes we were carrying jerrycans on our head. The water from the well was polluted with waste but despite that, we were fetching the water for drinking. When the water project was implemented many things changed. We have saved the money that we were using to purchase water. Because we can access water now, we can provide a lot of things such as vegetables, food, medicines and other things.

* Name changed to protect identity

Salim lives in Al Dhale’e district and currently has limited access to safe water. When he doesn’t have the money for water, the family are forced to drink unsafe water from wells which has led to his children becoming sick. Photo: VFX Aden / Oxfam

We are suffering from malnutrition and hardship in accessing water. Difficulty in accessing water and the lack of the water system. Despite the availability of storage water tanks in our area, there is hardship in affording the cost of buying water. If they wanted to buy water from the black market, they find it too expensive, which forces them to be indebted.

If we can access clean water and a water system that distributes to our homes, this would greatly help us. The money we are spending on purchasing water, it will help us in nutrition and education, in improving children’s education skills. This is what most of the people and residents are suffering from. Because now the cost of water has become more expensive than oil. When we purchase clean water, we find that its price is more expensive than petrol.

My dreams are every member’s dreams in this community. To live in safety and the availability of services. To have the ability to provide education to our children. To have hospitals in the area and most importantly, the accessibility of necessities, such as food and water and education.

Tawakkul is Public Health Engineer at Al Dhale’s water project. Al Dhale’e has not had access to clean water for nine years. Oxfam has managed to get the water flowing again to over 5,000 families, but there is still work to be done. Photo: VFX Aden/Oxfam

Yemen suffers from a lack of water. The unstable security situation, wars and revolutions that are occurring in Yemen, have led to many problems in rehabilitating the infrastructure and the water projects. Many projects have been suspended because of the war. Also, many people have fled because of the lack of water in their area.

The Al Dhale’e water project implementation started in 2006 but the project was suspended in 2011 due to the political situation. The project was suspended for nine years. For that reason most of the infrastructure such as water pumps, pipes and water storage tanks have collapsed and eroded because of the war of 2015.

Oxfam has rehabilitated the water main lines and stations to pump water to Al Dhale’e city which resulted in the rehabilitation of the infrastructure as the first stage of the project. But there are a lot of things remaining such as water and network distribution.

It’s a great feeling that we cannot describe. When we see the water flowing from the taps, or a household accessing water and the suffering is alleviated from the people. We used to see the women fetching water from the water well using jerrycans and animals or transporting it by water truck. But now we are striving to enable them to access it from their houses.

I have a strong motive to keep implementing this project until water access is available to all Al Dhale'e. Then we will say, 'Thankfully the water has reached Al Dhale’e and everyone will be happy.'

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Crisis upon crisis: Families in Yemen forced into debt to pay for food and medicine

Almost six years of war has pushed Yemen to the brink. Thousands have been killed, millions displaced and the country's infrastructure has been devastated. 

With the economy shattered, food prices skyrocketing and huge levels of unemployment, it has emerged that almost 40 percent of families are using debt to buy food and medicines. 

New research by Oxfam has revealed that families say they can’t borrow the money they need for essentials unless shopkeepers know they have a monthly income. For many, this means the cash transfers they receive from humanitarian agencies. 

Shopkeepers estimate that the number of families using debt to buy food has risen by 62 percent since the conflict started, while pharmacists estimate an increase of 44 percent in debt being used to purchase medicines.

Hind Qassem* with her 10 children in their temporary tent. Photo: Ahmed Al-Fadeel/Oxfam

Hind Qassem*, 45, was pregnant with her tenth child when her husband was killed by an artillery shell, forcing her to flee with her children.  At first, they lived under a plastic sheet, relying on leftovers given by neighbouring families. Three of her sons suffer from sickle cell anaemia and need blood transfusions every month.

“Now, I receive YER 45,000 (around US$70) every month," she said. "Yes, it is not enough to cover all our needs but it helps a lot. I am now able to pay for my children’s treatment and buy some flour and vegetables for us to eat. Shops will now allow us to buy food on credit because we are receiving monthly assistance."

Many families who are struggling with debt say that they are living permanently in arrears - using their transfer to pay off what they owe and then run up more debt as they wait for their next aid payment. 

Last year, donors only provided half of the aid money needed for the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. With the 2021 UN humanitarian need budget for Yemen due imminently, Oxfam is urging the international community to be generous when pledging funds. 

Ibrahim Alwazir, who carried out the research for Oxfam, said: “To struggle this hard to be able to provide food and medicine for one's family is an avoidable hardship that millions have to overcome on a daily basis. We need peace so no more Yemenis are forced to flee their homes and live in poverty.

“Peace will allow people to rebuild their lives and businesses, but we need support to help communities to do that. This war has turned my country into the world’s largest humanitarian crisis and it’s only getting worse. We all just want to get back to normal life.”  

Some 24.3 million Yemenis, over 53 per cent of the population, currently need humanitarian assistance. This year, 16.2 million Yemenis will rely on food aid to survive, with 17.9 million lacking access to healthcare in a country where only half of health facilities are fully functional.

It is estimated that in parts of Yemen one in five children are severely malnourished and will grow up with life-long medical conditions if they do not get more food.

Oxfam, along with other agencies in Yemen, provides support for struggling families in the form of cash transfers which allows people to choose what they buy and helps stimulate local markets.

Grocery store owner Abdulkareem Salaeh said: "We are left with no choice [but to offer credit]. People are desperate, and we are struggling to keep the business going. While some are able to pay, others can't and that's a problem.

"We only agree to lend people with a reliable source of income, like employees, business owners, daily wage labourers or those receiving humanitarian aid, else it will be a loss that we can't afford. We are barely able to cover operational costs and the costs of goods we sell. It's unfortunate!"

Oxfam staff distribute hygiene kits in Alkoba camp, Taiz. Photo: Hitham Ahmed/Oxfam

Oxfam been on the ground in Yemen since 2015, helping more than 3 million people in nine governorates with clean water and sanitation, cash assistance and food vouchers. 

We’ve provided clean water and sanitation to more than one million people, including in hard-to-reach areas of the country, through providing water by truck, repairing water systems, delivering filters and jerry cans, as well as building latrines and organising cleaning campaigns.

To help combat Covid-19, we’re also supporting the healthcare system with hygiene equipment, hospital supplies and mobile services for rural areas. We’ve been able to provide the health authorities in Amran governorate, northern Yemen, with five mobile health centres, as well as oxygen cylinders, hospital beds, PPE and fuel to help with the running of generators.

*Name changed

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World Humanitarian Day 2020: Celebrating Yemen's Local Heroes in the Midst of Crisis

This World Humanitarian Day, Oxfam pays tribute to all humanitarians, like Heba, Asem and Abeer – three extraordinary people, who are working to ensure that their community and their country can one day thrive.

By Ahmed Al Fadeel, Omar Algunaid, and Hannah Cooper

For people in Yemen, like people across the globe, 2020 has been a year like no other. Over five years into a conflict that has killed thousands and uprooted millions from their homes, the COVID-19 pandemic has added yet another layer to the country’s ongoing crisis. Health services – already operating at half their pre-war capacity – have been overwhelmed, and people’s fear of COVID-19 may be preventing them for seeking healthcare, potentially masking a deadly cholera outbreak. On top of this, the economy is collapsing; remittances have fallen dramatically due to recession and job losses in other parts of the world. Meanwhile, over halfway through the year, less than a quarter of the money needed for the humanitarian response has so far been given.

Yet, in the midst of these layers of crisis are the many extraordinary Yemenis who are standing with their communities to help in any way they can. Wherever any crisis hits, local people and communities are on the frontlines of the response, and Yemen is no exception.

Despite the impact that COVID-19 has had on all of their lives – from Asem, who has had to put his medical degree on hold, to Heba, who worries every day that her nine-month-old baby will fall sick with the virus – they continue to help people worse off than themselves. This World Humanitarian Day, Oxfam pays tribute to all humanitarians who, like them, are working to ensure that their country can one day thrive.

Heba, Oxfam’s PHP Officer in Aden, gets ready to conduct a community dialogue meeting to determine the main challenges and problems the community is facing. Photo: Omar Algunaid/Oxfam

Heba: “We are humanitarians… if we don’t stay to help people, who will?”

Heba works as a Public Health Promotion Officer for Oxfam in her hometown of Aden, southern Yemen. Her job – which involves raising awareness around the importance of good hygiene, and training community health volunteers to deliver hygiene awareness sessions – has put her on the frontlines of the country’s COVID-19 response. Throughout the four years that Heba has worked with Oxfam in Yemen, she has seen the impact of diseases such as cholera, dengue and polio; but the COVID-19 response has been a challenge unlike any other:

“It’s been difficult – we try to avoid meeting with our colleagues, and we’ve been really careful about going out to speak with the community. So much of our work is normally done face-to-face, but we’ve had to find other ways of making sure that communities are aware of what they can do to prevent the spread of COVID-19 [such as phoning people up or visiting individuals so that we don’t gather in large groups]. As a mother and wife, I was also concerned for the health of my family and my nine-month-old baby. This is a disease that could affect anyone.”

Despite her worries, however, Heba told us that she believes the work she does to be more important than ever:

“I am proud to be part of Oxfam and have the opportunity to contribute to supporting people in my country. We are humanitarians. We are needed more than ever in times like these; if we don’t stay to help and support people, who will?”

Asem, conducting a hygiene awareness session about COVID-19 prevention methods. Photo: Omar Algunaid/Oxfam

Asem: “COVID-19 turned our lives upside down”

Asem is a Community Health Volunteer (CHV) with Oxfam in a village in Al-Dhale, southern Yemen, where his family lives. He joined Oxfam’s growing team of CHVs in May this year, going door-to-door and holding group sessions to raise awareness within his community around good hygiene practice, so that people can protect themselves from disease.

Asem, a first-year medical student in Morocco – where he had received a scholarship to study – had come home to visit his family when the pandemic struck. Travel restrictions meant that he couldn’t return to university, so he decided to volunteer with Oxfam:

“COVID-19 turned our lives upside down. I was worried and frightened in the beginning – I felt so helpless.  I started volunteering with Oxfam to raise people’s awareness about COVID-19, and how to protect themselves. We make sure that the awareness sessions respect physical distancing, of course – over time, good hygiene practice has become part of our routine.”

According to Asem, one of the biggest challenges in Yemen is asking people to stay inside, where possible, to avoid spreading COVID-19. In a country where working from home is not a realistic option for most, people need to go out to work to be able to afford food for their families.

“I chose to volunteer with Oxfam because I wanted to help people in my village to protect themselves from diseases. Despite the risks and challenges, I think it’s important that people are raising awareness – and as a young person I feel like it’s my responsibility to protect others.”

Abeer, in the IDP camp delivering key hygiene awareness messages on Covid-19 and ways to avoid it. Photo: Ahmed Al Fadeel/Oxfam

Abeer: “It’s a really difficult feeling when you see so many people in need and you know that the help available just isn’t enough.”

Abeer, originally from the Yemeni capital Sana’a, works as a Public Health Officer in Hajjah. This area in northern Yemen has been hard hit by conflict and hosts a large population of displaced people, the majority of whom are women and children. They live in crowded camps where social distancing is often impossible, and access to clean water and hygiene products is inadequate.

“When I was a child I loved helping others, so I studied hard to become a social worker and make sure I could work with people who need help. Oxfam gave me the chance to enter the humanitarian world – something I had dreamed of doing.”

She told us how the arrival of COVID-19 has added to the daily challenges of humanitarian workers in Yemen:

“There were already thousands of families living in terrible conditions in the camps for displaced people in Hajjah. With the arrival of coronavirus, the situation became even worse. It’s a really difficult feeling when you see so many people in need of assistance and you know that the help available just isn’t enough. And, with the drop in funding, instead of increasing to match the rising need, we have had to cut some of our projects. That’s been the most difficult for me throughout this pandemic. It’s a terrible feeling.”

Yet, despite the challenges, Abeer continues to see the difference that her work makes for those who have already lost so much:

“My job gives me the opportunity to make a tangible change to my country. The most rewarding part of it is seeing the smiles on the faces of the people we help – we’re saving lives through providing people with food, shelter, clean water, and soap. Over the past five years, we’ve worked to help people whose homes have been totally destroyed by war.”

Since the confirmation of cases of COVID-19 in Yemen in April, Oxfam has refocused its work to respond to the pandemic. We are working on rehabilitating water supplies, distributing hygiene kits for the most vulnerable households, and trucking in clean water to camps for people who have had to flee their homes. We have also given cash for food to families affected by flooding. Across Yemen, we’re training community health volunteers to spread the word about COVID-19 and the importance of hygiene and handwashing.

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