Yemen

  • 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.

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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In Yemen, my child cries all night from hunger

Written by: Ibrahim Alwazir | Edited by: Lauren Heartnett

Since the war in Yemen escalated in 2015, millions of its people have been displaced – losing their livelihoods and leaving most or all of their belongings behind. Forced from their homes, they have had to flee, resettle and survive.

The small informal settlements, where many now live, lack basic services like clean water, safe sanitation, electricity, schools and more. Oxfam and other organisations, from the UN to small local NGOs, are doing all we can to help these families, but a massive gap in funding and ongoing challenges accessing vulnerable communities continues to put this response at risk.

Cases of COVID-19 were first confirmed in Yemen in early April. It has been spreading throughout the country since, but without sufficient testing, healthcare facilities or other infrastructure, it’s difficult to accurately estimate how many people have been affected.

Hunger has always been an urgent threat, with many areas of Yemen on the brink of famine for years. Cases of malnutrition, particularly among children, are all too commonplace. The price of food has increased and the basics are often difficult to find, putting food out of reach for most Yemenis.  In some cases, families have been forced to have their daughters married at a young age so they have one less mouth to feed, or in the hope that they will have a better chance in another’s care.

Hakeem stands near his tent in the settlement for displaced families, where he lives and also works with Oxfam to promote good health and sanitation, with a focus on how to stay healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. Haafedh Almattabi / Oxfam

Oxfam’s Public Health Community Programme

Oxfam’s Public Health Community Volunteer Hakeem Asser is working in one of these small informal settlements in Al-Qaflah district in Amran governorate, where 45 families now live. He also was forced to leave his home and is now living in this community with his family, including his seven children. He is helping to raise awareness in his community about the threat of COVID-19 and educate people on how to protect their families. 

“I am a [paid] volunteer with Oxfam and this helps me provide for my family, help my community and learn,” said Hakeem. “You can’t imagine how desperate people are. I can see them during the night, worried, sad, and totally unready to face another day. I try to calm them down and tell them it will be alright. Even with the payments from Oxfam, I am struggling, too. The other day I couldn’t afford to buy milk for my child. He was malnourished two years ago and I took him to a hospital to receive medical care on credit. I couldn’t pay back until now and I can’t follow up on his condition because of that.”

Hakeem shared that families have lost almost all means of accessing food. Before COVID-19 hit, this was already a major challenge. Oxfam had previously been the sole organisation to provide food vouchers, cash, water and awareness campaigns in the area, but most of this work had to be cut due to a lack of funds and challenges accessing the area regularly due to the conflict and restrictions from authorities.

“Oxfam was providing us with food baskets first and then cash for food, and we were happy and able to provide food and other necessities for our families. But since Oxfam was forced to scale back its support, we have lost a helping hand and people are devastated.”

Now, with COVID-19 looming, even the ways families had adapted to find food to survive are no longer open to them.

“People used to go to markets to get food or find daily-wage work opportunities, beg in the streets or receive leftovers from nearby restaurants, but now they have lost that too.”

Families in this, and other areas, are very afraid to leave their communities to find food or seek medical care, for COVID-19 or any other ailments.

Hakeem conducting a session with the community on what causes Cholera, how to prevent it, identify symptoms and how it can be treated. Photo Credit: Haafedh Almattabi / Oxfam

I can’t eat while others starve

“People here are aware of the virus and how it has been killing many people around the world. They are terrified. They all think they could be infected, and they can’t afford to get sick or die. This means that they now only rely on the generosity of others who provide perhaps some bread.

“Our children are the most affected – they are starving! My child keeps crying all night. He needs milk and I can’t afford it. That breaks my heart. But when I have food, I share it with my neighbours, especially these days. We have bread and when we bake, I make sure I share it all. I can’t eat while others starve. This is what we do – we share what we have!

“All I can say is that we are doing our best and we are confident in God’s mercy. This doesn’t mean we don’t need help. We need it so bad and we need it now. The most urgent thing right now is food. We need water, hygiene kits, cash and awareness campaigns. People are losing hope and with COVID-19 spreading, I can only imagine it will get worse. No one wants that to happen. It’s not fair.”

Oxfam is rehabilitating the water supply to one of the main hospitals in the city of Aden, providing cash assistance to families affected by flooding in the south of the country, and training community health volunteers to provide information about coronavirus and the importance of hygiene and handwashing.

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It’s five years since war broke out in Yemen. I will never forget the terror in the eyes of my children.

Written by Manal, a humanitarian worker with Oxfam in Yemen.

When war first escalated in 2015, I was living happily with my family in Taiz city. It saddens me how the city I loved, the city that holds all my memories since I was a child turned into a ghost town full of death and fear overnight.

It all started with a blue spark that lit up the sky and invaded our houses and the rooms in which we silently hid. Then we heard the crack. That was the first missile to hit a building near us. After that, bombs fell everywhere; we thought we’d be next. We tried not to panic but panic was all we could feel.

Ruined houses destroyed by aerial bombardment in the city of Aden. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

The next day myself and my children went to say goodbye to a friend who was taking a trip abroad. We could hear tanks in the streets nearby and the roads were blocked. We got trapped in her house, separated from our families who kept calling to check if we were okay. I will never forget the terror in the eyes of my children.

We were trapped inside the house for three days. I remember the heavy sounds of gun fire and tanks screeching just a few kilometres away. There was no one else with us so we managed to survive with the limited food we had.

“I still remember the fear, oppression and humiliation that day brought. I cried so hard, I cried and cried, all the way back. I was terrified.”

This day was sadly just a sign of what was to come – the feelings of fear, paralysis and vulnerability. Five years later, that feeling of being trapped is one that I and other Yemeni women constantly feel. But what I and others strive to do is fight that feeling and do all that we can to lead, to help others, and to feel hope that this conflict will end, and our lives can return to normal.

At one stage, everything calmed down and people started to feel safe. That was until six missiles hit a nearby mosque destroying it completely. Most of the injured were women and children. While a close relative of mine was helping to rescue the injured, another airstrike took his life. We didn’t even have time to mourn him properly.

We were just one family out of millions forced from our homes and all that home means – family, memories, security, history, love. As Yemenis, we have been forced to live in schools, tents, mosques or with other friends and relatives. The risk of experiencing violence, instability and illness has increased. We are all farther from our support networks and are forced to walk long distances for things like water, food or other resources. A life of displacement feels tenuous.

On the road to seek refuge, I would often close my eyes, allowing my memories to start play in my mind. I would be back with my family, as we gathered on Fridays at my grandfather’s house to eat lunch and then sing and dance with our neighbours until midnight.

I would remember how peaceful life was and how my friends and I had dreamed of the future. We loved adventure. We sometimes camped in nearby villages and mountains, enjoying nature together while sharing our hopes and memories.

All of that seems like a dream now. We still hope to go back home one day, where we belong and where our memories reside. It’s ironic how a single terrible memory of a blue glowing light can bring an end to warm memories.

Manal prepares cash transfers with her Oxfam colleagues. Photo: Oxfam

I now live with my mother, sister and two brothers. My father passed away over 15 years ago. I am the oldest and the only provider for my family. I love them and I try to take care of their needs the best I can. They are my only support in this world and to them I am the same.

As an Oxfam worker, it brings joy to my heart when I see how the aid that we provide helps people smile and brings them hope at a time of displacement and vulnerability.

I have seen a lot during these five years of war, particularly how hard it is for women to survive these circumstances. Many women have become the sole caregivers and breadwinners – a huge burden to bear.

Job opportunities are scarcer and prices have soared, while suffocating social restrictions on women remain. When you are a woman in a country like Yemen, war becomes more difficult with each passing day. The struggle to survive gets harder, especially for the many women who have been forced to depend on men all their lives without proper education or skills to fall back on.

I am sharing my story as one of countless women who deserve more than just recognition.  Women across Yemen are rising every day, doing all they can in difficult conditions to protect their families and their communities. With an education and a good job that fills me with pride, I am one of the lucky ones. Worst-case scenarios for women and girls in Yemen after five years of war includes surviving sexual violence, malnutrition, abuse, early marriage and sometimes death.

Women who fled the Tahiz region of Yemen are now living in a makeshift camp in the countryside. Photo: Pablo Tosco/Oxfam

The women of Yemen had no hand in this war. All decisions were and are still taken by men. Violence is being perpetrated by men. Women have the strength to act together – to step out of the crowded rooms where we feel vulnerable and paralysed, to lead our families, communities and country. For the days ahead, I call on women to have an equal voice in ending this war and paving the way for a peaceful future for Yemen.

Since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, Oxfam teams have reached more than 3 million people with much-needed sanitation services, clean water, cash assistance and food vouchers. Even as COVID-19 sweeps across the globe, our staff continues to deliver aid, comfort and hope to the people of Yemen. But we need all the help we can get.

Please give what you can today.

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