Emergency cash transfers are a lifeline for Yemeni families living in war and poverty

As the conflict rages in Yemen, cash transfers are the only source of income for many of the most vulnerable families.

By Ana Seixas, Ansar Rasheed and Ibrahim Shamakh
A woman sits with two children, Yemen
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Rasheed

23 July 2018

Yemen, 23 July 2018 – The war in Yemen has caused one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world with a devastating toll on the most vulnerable children and families. As part of its ongoing response with funds and support from the World Bank, UNICEF is delivering unconditional emergency cash transfers to around 1.5 million families, reaching an estimated 9 million people.

Many of these families have no other source of income, relying solely on this support to buy essential items like food, medicine and school supplies.

Cash transfers have allowed families to send their children back to school, and even to start small businesses in their communities.

Amat Alrahman, 20, lives with 14 of her family members in a small house inherited from her grandfather. Amat’s father used to be the main breadwinner in the family. After he passed away, the family had no source of income.

“The benefit we used to receive from Social Welfare Fund before the war helped us to manage the family’s basic needs. When the help stopped, we suffered a lot,” Amat says. Most children in the family never attended school because the family could not cover the costs.

Emergency cash transfers were a turning point for the family. “My aunt and I, we have put our cash benefits together, bought a used sewing machine and started a small business here in the house,” says Amat. While one of them sews the clothes, the other does the brocade. “We now have hope that our life will be better.”

 

A man in a wheelchair with two sons, Yemen
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Gabreez
Saleh Saleh Al-Shami with two of his four children. He stopped receiving paychecks at his job three years ago, and the cash transfers now help him buy food for his family.

Saleh Saleh Al-Shami, 35, is the proud father of four children. “I spend most of my free time at home with my children. Starting a family was like a dream coming true.”

Saleh works at the Local Administration compound, but as with many other public sector employees, he has stopped receiving paychecks. “The war resulted in the suspension of salaries, as well as of the benefits we used to receive from the Social Welfare Fund. We have not received a single Yemeni Riyal for the past three years.”

The cash benefits the family receives is helping them to meet their most pressing needs. “My wife and my children kept asking me since early morning to buy them vegetables. I left home with nothing in my pocket, except the hope of getting this cash aid.”

 

A woman sits with two children, Yemen
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Rasheed
Salwa Sadam sits with her two children as they study. Using the money she received from the cash transfers, she was able to buy supplies for her children so they could re-enrol in school.

Salwa Sadam is a single mother from one of the poorest and most marginalized communities in Yemen’s Aden governorate. After her divorce two years ago, Salwa was left alone to care and provide for her three children.

The meagre income she gets from sporadically working as a maid is quickly spent on food and other immediate needs. Unable to pay for her children’s school expenses, she made the difficult decision to pull them out of classes.

However, when she started receiving the cash transfers, she was able to buy second-hand school uniforms for her children and cover other schooling needs, and they are now re-enrolled. “A little amount made such a great difference for us,” Salwa says.

 

A woman sews at a sewing machine, Yemen
UNICEF Yemen/2018/Rasheed
Umm Mohammed sews at her sewing machine. When she started receiving emergency cash transfers, she was able to start her own business.

Umm Mohammed lives with her husband and four children. When her husband lost his job because of the war, the family were unable to cover their most basic needs.

“My son Mohammed is such a smart child. It broke my heart when he had to stop going to school, but we just could not afford it anymore.” The family suffered through harsh times, living on just one meal a day. But when they started receiving emergency cash transfers, Umm Mohammed was able to start her own business. “I managed to fix my sewing machine and purchased fabrics. Now most of the neighbours are my customers,” Umm says.

“I am so proud of my mother who struggled a lot and never gave up on us.”

Her son Mohammed is now back to school.

“When my mother asked me to stop going to school, I kept quiet. I had no choice but going to my room and cry. I was first in class. But we were so poor and unable to even feed ourselves,” he says. “Now things have changed, I am back to school. I am so proud of my mother who struggled a lot and never gave up on us.”