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Yemen: The benefits of cash assistance

09 Jun 2016


A man receives a small cash grant from the NGO Oxfam. Credit: Oxfam
Aid organizations reached over 100,000 households with cash assistance in 2015. This year, the humanitarian community in Yemen plans to scale up the use of multi-purpose cash programming to help up to 1 million people.

Localized violence, armed clashes and air strikes have created shocking levels of destruction and suffering in Aslam District in Hajjah Governorate, northern Yemen. Like many other governorates in Yemen, Hajjah has experienced escalated conflict since March 2015. This has pushed the country into having the highest number of new IDPs worldwide. 

“Life has not been the same since losing my husband,” said Saeeda Mashta, a 53-year-old displaced mother of six, who lost her husband two years ago. “This was made worse by the current conflict that has ravaged our district of Abs, forcing me to leave everything behind to seek refuge in Aslam.”

Saeeda is one of more than 367,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Hajjah. Displacement within the governorate has significantly increased requirements for food, water, shelter, health care, education and essential household items.

Humanitarian partners estimate that the livelihoods of half of all conflict-affected people in Yemen have been destroyed by the escalating crisis. Traditional safety nets—including remittances or assistance from friends and relatives—are increasingly unavailable. This, combined with decreased purchasing power, means that Yeminis have less income and their money buys less.

Since losing her husband, Saeeda has been the sole breadwinner for her two young children. Seven months ago, conflict forced the family to flee their home and seek shelter in an informal IDP camp in Aslam. Without close relatives in the area or money to rent a house, the family ended up sheltering in a makeshift structure.

They would sometimes go without food as Saeeda tried but failed to find casual work. “If there is just one day I will never forget, it is the day when I was registered to get cash assistance,” she said.

The assistance is provided through a humanitarian partner in Sa’ada, with funding from the Humanitarian Pooled Fund (HPF). “Being registered brought much-needed relief for my children,” Saeeda said. “I am told that for the next three months we will receive 18,000 YER (US$72) monthly to buy food. That was what I needed the most.”

The cash is not enough to cover all of Saaeda’s household needs, but it has made a huge difference in her life and the lives of many other vulnerable households. “Besides buying food, I will use some of the money to buy medicine for my daughter,” Saeeda explained. “I will keep looking for casual labour to supplement the monthly assistance, but I am happy that my children can at least eat a meal or two a day.”

Aid organizations reached over 100,000 households with cash assistance in 2015. This year, the humanitarian community in Yemen plans to scale up the use of multi-purpose cash programming to help up to 1 million people.

Jamie McGoldrick, the Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) for Yemen, explained: “Cash assistance is logistically easier to manage in an extremely complicated environment like Yemen. It is my hope that the international community expands its use.”

The HPF was established in early 2015 to mobilize and channel resources to humanitarian partners to respond to the critical needs of millions of crisis-affected people in Yemen. The HC manages the fund through OCHA.

The fund has proven to be a flexible and strategic tool to address urgent needs. It allows donors with a limited presence in-country to combine their financial resources to contribute to the humanitarian emergency and relief operations. In its allocations, the fund considers the distinct needs of women, girls, boys and men to ensure equal opportunities and access to assistance.

Since March 2015, the HPF has disbursed $54 million to 31 national and international partners in Yemen. In Hajjah, the fund supported 24 projects in 2015, disbursing $5.4 million to support the provision of life-saving humanitarian assistance to people in desperate need within the governorate.

“It is my intention that the HPF continues to respond to the complex humanitarian crisis in 2016 while engaging with new partners and encouraging expansion to conflict-affected and remote areas,” said Mr. McGoldrick.

“The fund will continue to evolve, benefiting from global best practices and further implementation of global guidelines for country-based pooled funds,” he added. “This includes strengthening the allocation mechanisms and monitoring tools to increase transparency and accountability.”