Yemen: Imagine raising children in the middle of a war

By: 
CARE
Kawather inside the one-room home she shares with her husband and four children

“Before the war our life was relatively easy. We were able to feed our children. Now everything has changed.”

Kawather lives in Al-Maafar in Taizz with her husband and four children. She says:

My husband lost his job and the prices of everything went up. He went to the city to look for work but he didn’t find anything.

So Kawather started working on the farms to generate some income to feed her children, but it’s not reliable.

One day I am able to buy some food. But the next day they sleep with empty stomachs. Sometimes I can’t help but cry.

Kawather inside her home, holding baby, Yemen
Kawather inside her home, holding her youngest child

As Yemen moves into the fifth year of war, the humanitarian situation is worse than ever. Households are incapable of affording the basics for their families and find themselves trapped by malnutrition, a lack of food and clean water and unemployment. Kawather says:

I am very thankful that at least we have one cow. I keep telling myself that our life is much better than many people who have absolutely nothing.

Kawather’s house consists of just one room. They don’t have a bathroom, so she has to wait until it’s dark to go outside if she needs to go to the toilet. This is one of the huge indignities that women in her village suffer from.

Kawather and children outside their home, Yemen
Kawather with three of her children at the door to their one-room home

Water and sanitation is one of the most critical needs in Yemen. The lack of a fully functioning health system and limited access to safe water and hygiene has caused the worst outbreak of cholera in Yemen’s history. Since 2016 there have been a total of 1.3 million suspected cases and almost 3,000 deaths; 92 percent of Yemen’s districts are affected by cholera. With the rainy season coming and a surge in cholera cases, there are concerns about a renewed outbreak.

Yemen WASH infographic

CARE is working to improve access to clean water and latrines for households, schools and public facilities, as well as conducting hygiene awareness sessions. Kawather participated in building a latrine and at last she can go to the toilet without waiting for night to fall. But she still needs to feed her children and educate them. She says:

Sometimes we have only of a piece of bread and milk to eat. I wish I had a reliable job to be able to afford a decent life for me and my children.

Portrait of Shafeqa holding water canister, Yemen
Shafeqa with a water canister that she uses to collect water for her family

“I wish this was all just a nightmare”

Shafeqa is a mother of three disabled children. Since the war started four years ago, life has become much more complicated for Shafeqa and her family. They were dependent on the income her husband used to receive from working on the land, but as so many farms are not operational because of the increase in the prices of fuel and water, they found themselves without income. Shafeqa says:

I was constantly worried, crying at night. I felt like I had failed to provide a decent life for my children. I started working in people’s houses to be able to feed my children. But even now sometimes I get tired and I sit and cry, thinking about our situation. I wish this was all just a nightmare.

After years of war and the resulting economic decline, job losses, and price increases, people like Shafeqa are not able to afford food, medicine and other basic items.

Shafeqa walking to collect water, Yemen
Shafeqa carrying a water canister

On top of her financial worries, Shafeqa was struggling to get water. She used to walk every day for two hours to collect water from the well. After CARE helped to build water tanks closer to her house, it only takes half an hour to collect water and come home. She also participates as a volunteer in raising awareness about hygiene practices, which helps to prevent diseases like cholera. She says:

So many people get sick because they don’t know about good hygiene habits. After I learnt about them I feel I am responsible to spread the word and share the knowledge I have.

Shafeqa’s is one of countless families in Yemen who suffer from poverty as a result of the relentless war. She often wishes she could go back in time to her comfortable and stable life. “Our life wasn’t perfect,” she says. “But we used to sleep with our minds at peace.”

Now, I sleep worrying about how we are going to survive tomorrow, and I wake up thinking about how we are going to end our day.

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News and stories are provided by CARE staff working to support our emergency responses and long-term development programmes.