Unconditional cash grants are a lifeline for a mother in Yemen

In one of the world’s most complex humanitarian crises, an ongoing programme is giving some, like Aisha, hope to survive

By Hanan Albehery
A beneficiary from the marginalized community receives her monthly financial support
15 November 2016

The conflict in Yemen has further exacerbated already challenging economic and social conditions.

TAIZ, Yemen, 15 November 2016 – The Mahwa neighborhood in Taiz city is a slum packed with overcrowded shanties. It is not the kind of place suitable for a healthy living. But it is amazing how people survive here amidst disease and deprivation. It is said here, with irony, that empty stomachs are the only free space in Mahwa. At night thousands of families sleep on the ground under the open sky.

It is in Mahwa that Aisha has been living with her children – a boy and three girls. As members of the marginalized Muhamasheen community, they have had a sparse and simple life, but they have been happy. Aisha always enjoyed a warm family atmosphere with the small income she made from selling vegetables. Every day, she would spread a small fabric on the ground and carefully arrange the vegetables on top before calling out to the people, urging them to buy from her. She never stopped smiling at her daily customers. 

But when Yemen’s conflict escalated, it gave rise to fear and uncertainties. Soon it took away Aisha’s only source of income, and with it, her smile. Like many others who lost their jobs when the conflict began, Aisha found herself with no means to sustain her family.

“Life was never been perfect for us, but at least we had something to eat!” she says, trying to hide her tears with a pale smile. “I used to wake up with great energy in the morning, and it gave me a lot of happiness when I was carrying my vegetables to sell them.”

UNICEF Yemen/2016/Nasser

Women in Taiz city go through data verification during cash disbursement. The Humanitarian Cash Transfer Programme supported by UNICEF helps those most affected by the conflict, especially women.

For Aisha, who also has to buy medicine for a chronic kidney affliction, there seemed to be no options. “Unfortunately, I am a woman who didn’t go to school. This fabric on which I sold my goods was not only my source of income it was also my family’s source of happiness. Because of this small project I felt proud being a woman, proud that I did not depend on anyone else despite being illiterate,” she says wistfully.

A new hope

Then a piece of good news changed everything for Aisha and her family. They were granted monthly assistance from Yemen’s ongoing Cash Assistance Program, supported by UNICEF.

“We will never forget the assistance that UNICEF provided us in these difficult times that we were going through. They came to our aid at a time when everyone else had abandoned us,” Aisha says.

To help the poor and vulnerable such as Aisha survive the conflict, UNICEF launched an unconditional humanitarian cash transfer programme in two governorates of Yemen – Amanat Al-Asima and Taiz. The programme specifically targets the poorest and the most excluded communities, giving each household a monthly unconditional cash grant of 21,500 YER, equivalent to US$100, for a period of six months.

With the cash assistance she received, Aisha was able to provide for her family’s basic needs and buy medications for her kidney. She also hopes to one day resume her old business selling vegetables once the situation stabilizes. In the meantime, she plans to start another small enterprise to sustain her family.

The Cash Assistance Programme is executed by UNICEF in cooperation with partners like Al-Amal Bank, Hemmat Shabab Foundation and Prodigy Institution. Like Aisha, many more people in Yemen are waiting for help to sustain their lives under the shadow of conflict.