Yemen is experiencing the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. More than four years of brutal civil war has left over 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and 17 million in need of food.
The suffering inflicted on Yemeni people is entirely manmade, and is having a disproportionate impact on women and girls, who are exposed to increased risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. Due to ongoing violence and a severe economic decline, access to healthcare is difficult and expensive, especially for women and girls. Only half of Yemen’s healthcare facilities are fully functional.
The United Nations has called Yemen “a living hell for children.” More than 2 million children do not attend school, and 1.8 million children suffer from acute malnutrition, resulting in 30,000 child deaths every year. Every 10 minutes in Yemen, a child dies from preventable diseases.
“As a humanitarian organization working to help 1.5 million Yemenis a month, CARE sees daily the catastrophic impact of war on the people of Yemen,” Jolien Veldwijk, CARE Yemen’s Program and Operations Director said in a press release following an escalation of hostilities in Aden last summer. “Peace in Yemen is only possible through political means.”
Our life is hard here but it’s better than watching my own children die in front of me.
CARE has called for all parties to cease fighting, agree to a nationwide ceasefire, and cooperate in “good faith” with the UN Special Envoy to Yemen, and help restart a broader peace process.
CARE has worked in Yemen since 1992 and is one of the few international aid agencies continuing to deliver humanitarian services amid the current crisis.
The following photos give a glimpse into life for the millions of Yemenis whose lives have been devastated by the ongoing war.
Najwa, 32, holds two of her seven children. After fleeing her hometown Al Sabriah due to the conflict, she spent two years living under a tree with her family. The family currently stays in a home, but since there is only one bed, most of them sleep outside in the courtyard.
The war has had devastating impacts for Najwa’s family. Her husband is no longer able to find work, is depressed, and abusive.
“I am very concerned about my children. Many are constantly sick and I can’t even provide three meals a day to them,” she says. CARE supports Najwa with cash assistance, which she’s using to buy food for her children.
Broken glass and discarded chart paper are all that is left of Al-Farouq school in Sana’a. The school was hit in an airstrike and is being rehabilitated by CARE.
In 2018 alone, there were 44 verified attacks on schools and 32 instances of military uses of schools.
Amaal, 10, and her family fled their hometown of Hodeidah because of the war and resettled in Aden, Yemen. They live in an old wooden house and currently have no income.
Amaal’s father explains that the family has few options. “Our life is hard here but it’s better than watching my own children die in front of me. I am very sad I can’t send Amaal and her siblings to school. I just can’t afford it,” he says.
Amaal is heartbroken that she can’t attend school. “I sit by our door and wait to see the girls walk home with their beautiful uniforms. I know my father can’t afford it.”
Amaal is still determined to learn, so she attends Quran reciting lessons at a nearby mosque, which gives her an opportunity to read Arabic.
Amaal first saw CARE’s project team in Aden’s Al Buraiqah district last year, when they were providing internally displaced people with hygiene kits and conducting awareness sessions to educate people on preventing diarrhea and eliminating the spread of cholera.
Amaal volunteered to help CARE staff by identifying houses in the area where other displaced people lived so they could reach out to them. She learned about hygiene from the team, and began teaching other children about practices like hand-washing techniques. The experience has inspired Amaal to pursue a profession in the medical field.
“I can’t wait to go back home to my old school to finish my studies because I want to be a doctor in the future and cure diseases,” she says.
Faida Bajel takes care of her 12-year-old daughter Rawan, who lives with physical and mental disability, leaving her unable to walk or speak.
After clashes in her hometown of Hodeidah, Faida and her four children spent two days traveling to Aden by foot. “It was very difficult because I had to carry my daughter. She cannot walk by herself,” she says.
Faida now lives in a camp for internally displaced people, sharing a single room with her children, brother, and mother-in-law. The family, like others in the camp, have limited access to water and toilets.
“My biggest wish is for my daughter to get better. We used to get treatment but now we have no more money to get her treated.”
Every 10 minutes in Yemen a child dies from a preventable disease
Faida, Rawan, and their family live in this camp in Aden, which hosts over 2,000 people. It used to be a school until displaced people began seeking refuge there. According to the U.N., 3.6 million people in Yemen have been forced from their homes.
Most of the people staying in the camp fled during clashes, forced to leave within minutes and leave everything behind. They now live in the congested makeshift camp under extremely difficult circumstances, with limited access to food, water and jobs.
CARE works to keep the camp clean — which is essential in reducing the risk of diseases like cholera — and has built latrines, distributed hygiene kits, and continues to provide cash support to people in the camp.
Thaibah was walking her family’s goats when she was hit by an airstrike. “I looked around and there was smoke coming out of the grass. When I looked down on myself I saw so much blood all around my leg, and I saw that one leg was missing … that was when I knew I was not going to be able to walk again.”
Thaibah’s parents sold their land and animals to pay for a prosthetic leg, which cost $925. Despite several surgeries, Thaibah’s body refused to accept the metal plate, and she has regular infections, so doctors put her leg in a permanent cast.
The family decided to move after her injury. “Now, we live in a house that is not ours and in a village in which we don’t belong. I feel like a burden,” Thaibah says.
CARE helped Thaibah’s family with cash transfers (approximately $530, over the span of six months), which were used to buy food and pay for transportation to the hospital.
Mina, 30, holds her 10-month-old daughter, Gihan, who is underweight. “I took her to the hospital nearby but she needs to go to Taiz [a city in southwestern Yemen] to get treated. It’s too far away and we have no money to go there, particularly because the doctor told us that she would have to stay in the hospital for one month,” Mina says.
Mina often went hungry during her pregnancy, and believes this is the reason why Gihan was born underweight. “During the war, we went to the mountains and stayed under trees for three months. I didn’t have much to eat.”
CARE is supporting Mina with cash assistance over a 6-month period, for a total of $530. Cash transfers provide assistance in the form of money — either physical currency or e-cash to recipients, offering them dignity and the ability to spend it on their most pressing needs.
Amani, 9, can finally play again. During the conflict in Aden, water and sewage systems collapsed, contaminating her neighborhood with garbage. “We couldn’t even pass the streets. The garbage was everywhere,” Amani says.
CARE is helping clean streets in Aden and lower the risk of them becoming breeding grounds for diseases such as cholera.
“I was always sick and mosquitos would bite me. But since CARE cleaned the streets, I am able to play outside again. I can even take the shortcut to school now,” Amani says.