Real lives

Feature stories


Living on the sideline

UNICEF Yemen/2018/Al-Wazizah
© UNICEF Yemen/2018/Al-Wazizah
Abdullah standing in his roofless hall.

12 March 2018 – Abdullah Ahmed Saber lives with his large family of 8 girls, 2 boys and his wife in an informal settlement of Mathbah, Sana’a city. They fled the escalation of hostilities in Hodeidah city to seek a safe shelter in Sana’a. “I have ten kids and none of them go to school simply because I cannot afford school expenses”, sighed Abdullah Ahmed Saber, 37.

Abdullah does not have a regular job. His sole source of income depends on wandering in the streets in search of empty plastic bottles which he then sells in order to secure at least one meal for his children. “The day I don’t work, my kids don’t eat”, says Abdullah. “Three of my children now help me in collecting empty plastic bottles so that our family can eat,” continued Abdullah.

Abdullah’s eldest daughter, Eman, 14, suffers in silence from a bad tumor on her right cheek. She always tries to keep it from the sight of neighbors. The tumor grows slowly but her father can’t afford to take her to the doctor. A younger daughter, Nima, 5, was once playing with the kids and a kid threw a stone into her right eye. Because her father waited until someone offered to take care of the expenses, Nima can no longer see with her right eye. All ten children of Abdullah have no birth certificates. To them that is a luxury the family can’t afford. Abdullah’s priority is to fill the always empty stomachs.

UNICEF Yemen/2018/Al-Wazizah
© UNICEF Yemen/2018/Al-Wazizah
Moyasarah, 27, just gave birth to her 10th child in the absence of a professional birth attendant.

Moysarah, Abdullah’s wife who is only 27, recently gave birth to their 10th kid, Saleh, in the absence of a professional birth attendant and in poor hygiene conditions that put the life of both the mother and the newborn at risk. Her neighbor and husband helped during labor. “I gave birth to all my ten children the same way and always at home because we can’t afford hospital or birth attendant costs”, said Moysarah.

Abdullah’s family lives in extreme poverty where they have to collect water from a nearby tank. They don’t have proper toilets and their humble home is neither connected to the public sewage system nor do they have a pit latrine. Electricity is yet another luxury they can’t afford. They use headlights instead to be able to go around during the night.

As for clothes, Abdullah’s children wear what their father brings from garbage containers. He doesn’t remember the last time he bought new clothes for himself or for his children.

Abdullah has a talent for working with engines. He briefly worked as a substitute mechanic at a local garage. He wishes he could find a job as a mechanic so that he could earn more and could afford food and school expenses for his children. “I hope my children will have a better life than mine,” concluded Abdullah.

The continued escalation of violence in Yemen is pushing millions in Yemen into extreme poverty and forcing them to resort to negative coping mechanisms. The impacts of poverty are devastating for all the people, and children in particular, as they usually have lifetime consequences. Abdullah Saber and his family are not beneficiaries of any social protection schemes. The formal social protection systems are on the verge of collapse, while informal social protection mechanisms and networks are overstretched. 



 Email this article

unite for children