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Yemen: Humanitarian Fund helps displaced families survive the harsh winter

28 Mar 2018
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Credit: OCHA/Giles Clarke

As the brutal conflict in Yemen enters its fourth year, more than 3 million people (10 per cent of the total population) have experienced the shock of displacement. Two million people remain internally displaced across the country.

Thousands of Yemeni families have been forced to flee their homes and leave everything behind. Many are in desperate need of shelter, food, water, sanitation and access to health services. They are also more likely to be exposed to protection risks, including human rights abuses and gender-based violence.

But this situation can become life-threatening for people who are ill but cannot afford to buy basic medicines and supplies. In a context such as Yemen, where the impact of prolonged conflict has taken an enormous toll on millions of people, tools such as the OCHA-managed humanitarian funds can kick-start life-saving activities, filling the most compelling gaps through funding that is channeled to national and international partners.

Hana and her family fled their home in A’ahem, Hajjah, after it was damaged by air strikes almost three years ago. They left their home and their possessions behind. Their daily struggle to survive has been eased by the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF), through which the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) provides basic items to the most vulnerable families to help them survive the harsh winter.

In debt and in poor health


Credit: OCHA/Mohammed Al-Sabahi

Since the air strikes, Hana are her family have been renting a house in Hamadan district, in Sana’a governorate. But Hana’s husband has had heart and throat complications because of the attack.

Prolonged, brutal violence has had a devastating impact on Yemen’s economy and accelerated the complete collapse of public institutions, compounding the living conditions of 2 million IDPs. Back in Hajjah, Hana’s husband worked as a teacher, but he is now unable to report to duty because of displacement and his medical condition. As with most of the 1.25 million civil servants in Yemen, he hasn’t received his salary for more than a year.

The oldest of the couple’s five children has been doing irregular work to provide for the family. “Still, we heavily depend on support from relatives and loans to survive,’’ said Hana.

Because they have no steady income, the family has not paid the rent in over a year. Their debt now stands at 180,000 YR ($380). The landlord has complained to the community leader and the police, and he threatens to evict the family. But there is little the family can do. “I don’t want to be kicked out of the house and to see our things thrown onto the street,’’ said Hana, who fears being forced to seek refuge again.

An estimated 80 per cent of Yemenis are in debt, and more than half of all households have had to buy food on credit.

Hana’s children are lucky enough to still attend school, but affording their education is a struggle, as is affording essential medicines for the family, including aspirin, which is critical for her husband’s heart condition. “It’s been seven months since he last had it,” said Hana. But she recently received some basic supplies from NRC, whose YHF-funded project provides non-food items and winter kits to the most vulnerable IDPs, whether they live in camps, spontaneous settlements, rented accommodation or with other families. The project, which has a budget of $740,000, aims to reach some 8,750 people between July 2017 and June 2018. “This will help me and my family withstand the hard winter weather,” said Hana.

‘’I cannot buy my wife’s medicine”


Credit: OCHA/Mohammed Al-Sabahi

Naji Mohsen, 45, also lives in Hamadan district, where he arrived two years ago with the 10 members of his family because of the raging fighting in his home village in Al Jawf Governorate.

“It was in the afternoon when an air strike hit very near to my land while I was there,” said Naji, whose hearing was badly affected by the air strike. Back in his village, he could live off what his land produced, but now he has no income and no means of survival. “I am struggling to afford the most basic things,” said Naji, who has not been able to pay his rent in months.

Naji’s wife has severe diabetes. “I cannot even buy her medicine,’’ he said. This is a familiar situation because of the massive price increase in basic commodities, such as food, fuel and medicines. And the cold winter is worsening people’s living conditions day after day.

Naji and his family received a winterization kit from NRC’s YHF-funded project, which will help them get through the winter.

The YHF was the largest country-based pooled fund in 2017. It received $176 million from 19 donors for the most urgent life-saving action in support of the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. So far in 2018, donors have committed $12.4 million to support humanitarian response in Yemen through the fund.