Impact of Covid-19 on Humanitarian Funding

the Case of a Female-headed Household in Yemen

Kawthar, 30 years old and single, is a certified midwife in Al-Taffah district of Al-Bayda Governorate
UNICEF Yemen/2020
30 September 2020

Kawthar, 30 years old and single, is a certified midwife in Al-Taffah district of Al-Bayda Governorate, central Yemen. Her father used to be the main breadwinner but now he is old and unable to work, and the small amount provided by her brother on monthly basis is not enough to feed the family. In early 2018, she knew she needed to find a job, which she did after six months of searching. Thanks to the capacity building she received by the UNICEF supported Emergency Health and Nutrition Project (EHNP), she became a trained midwife in Al-Thahrah Health Center in Al-Taffah district. Thanks to this training, Kawthar became the main breadwinner of her family:


“I have worked as a midwife in Al-Thahrah Health Center since July 2018 where I used to receive a monthly incentive from the project supported by UNICEF. That income helped me to provide the food and other basic essential items needed for my family. I was also able to make a small saving for emergencies. After the project completed in July 2019, I continued working in the centre for free counting on the centre management’s promise that my name will be included in any new donor-funded intervention targeting the centre”, says Kawthar.

With COVID 19 outbreak and the subsequent decrease in the humanitarian funding this year for Yemen, Kawthar and her colleagues are worried that donors’ supported projects to the health facility they work for will not resume.

“I worry that if COVID-19 spreads in my governorate, the Health and Nutrition project won’t start again, and I will no longer be able to support my family” says Kawthar.

Over the past months, discussions took place to start a new phase of the same project in Al-Bayda between the UNICEF, the donor and the Ministry of Health. However, with the funding shortage, changing priorities as well as the implications of the precautionary measures put as a result of COVID-19, the project is not expected to resume soon. Consequently, Kawthar is not paid nor she is able to secure alternative work to support the livelihoods of her family. 

To cope with the new realities, Kawthar had to reduce the family expenditure and buy only the essential food items and a few other essential non-food items. The amount provided by her brother covers the essential food part and the non-food items are purchased on credit. As a result, her brother is working overtime to secure more money to pay for the overdue credits. Kawthar also is using her savings to pay for her work-related transportation. As a midwife, Kawthar works five days a week helping pregnant women visiting the centre with the health care they need. She considers her work contributes to strengthening her clinical expertise and a pathway to achieve a permanent job. However, if no donor-funded project comes to the centre soon she will have no income to support her family, nor she will be able to come to work and strengthen her capacity by helping other women.

Kawthar and other 118 health workers (40% of them were females and they are totally or partially responsible for their families’ livelihoods) have benefited from the monthly financial incentives during the project lifetime. The EHNP provided health and nutrition services to the target populations in the urban, rural and hard-to-reach areas through 122 health facilities and deployment of mobile teams. The decrease in the humanitarian funding after COVID-19 outbreak will result in cutbacks and/or downscale in the implementation of the planned health, nutrition and other humanitarian projects. Not only the target beneficiaries of these projects will be affected, but female-headed households will also be at risk of losing income and using dangerous coping mechanisms.