In the village of Khanfar, in Yemen’s Abyan governorate, 62-year-old Khamisa lives with her daughter and her daughter’s children. The two women can barely manage the family's daily needs, so what will happen now that illness joins their daily struggle to survive.
“Conflict increased our suffering as women as we did not have any breadwinners, and conflict left us on a new journey of survival, where we had to face our pain and suffering alone,” Khamisa said.
Yemen has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and North Africa, and is now in the midst of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises. The country is now facing the world's largest food security emergency, with 20 million people – 66 per cent of the country's population - in need of humanitarian aid. Embroiled in conflict since early 2015, fighting has devastated its economy, leading to severe food insecurity and the destruction of critical infrastructure.
Natural disasters have aggravated the crisis; the latest came in the form of tropical cyclone Tej, which made landfall over the southern coast of Al Mahrah Governorate recently, leaving more than 27,000 people internally displaced.
And the ongoing conflict does not mean other chronic ailments take a break. In Khamisa’s case, it came in the form of cancer.
“Before I became ill, we used to devote our time to the daily struggle of providing the basic necessities of life,” she says. “Following that, other challenges surfaced. Permanent fear and anxiety defined my life and my daughter’s, especially because of the difficulty of obtaining money for necessary medical examinations to find out the cause of my illness.”
When even food is not the biggest priority
Khamisa’s case shows us that the daily struggle to find food and drink may not be a priority for some people, as their main priority is getting medicine to stay alive. There are a few places where people can seek help as almost all basic services available in the country have collapsed.
Khamisa and others like her see the cash assistance (offered by Yemen Red Crescent Society in partnership with the IFRC, ICRC and the British Red Cross) as a real lifeline. It gives Khamisa some hope and also helps her get to the hospital quickly, which unfortunately she must do on a regular basis.
Her focus now is on ensuring her own survival to stand by her only daughter. “Our struggle stories never end,” she adds. “Our struggle is not only related to the continuous efforts to provide food and water but also related to dealing with sudden diseases in the absence of the necessary health care and sufficient support.”
Photo: Yemen Red Crescent Society
The power of choice
39-year-old Ahmed also lives in Khanfar with his sister, and his six children. He was working as a day laborer to provide for his family’s food needs and cover other medical and education requirements. But after Ahmed suffered from a heart disease, conditions began to gradually deteriorate.
After becoming jobless, he spent all his savings trying to make sure his family had enough to eat, but what he saved from this work was not enough to cover his family’s needs. Ahmed told us that there were days when he went to bed hungry to save a little food for their children.
Since the first cash distribution, Ahmed said that he was able to treat his illness and recover his health, and after the second cash distribution, he was able to open a grocery store which is now a permanent source of income.
“I think it is better for aid to be given in cash rather than supplies,” Ahmed said. “The cash I received helped me to recover my health, and at the same time, it saved my source of income.”