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Creating opportunities during crisis: How cash aid promotes resilience and self-reliance among displaced Yemeni Women

A woman in a black head covering measuring something on a scale and a baby sitting next to the scale

Sumiya packs Henna powder to sell in the market. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Sumiya packs Henna powder to sell in the market. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

The ongoing conflict in Yemen has resulted in devastating humanitarian needs, uprooted millions of people from their homes, crippled the economy, and fostered disease spread. According to the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO) analysis for 2022, 23.4 million Yemeni people are estimated to require humanitarian assistance in 2022, of whom 12.9 million people are assessed to be in acute need.

Yemen’s economy has shrunk by half since 2015, with over 80 percent of the population living below the poverty line. The collapse of the economy, basic services, and public institutions have further eroded the resilience of people in Yemen. As a result, millions more people across Yemen cannot afford to meet their basic needs and are becoming increasingly dependent on humanitarian assistance to survive. With few alternatives, people are more incentivized to adopt harmful coping strategies, such as child labor, early marriage, running up debts, selling possessions, and interrupting education.

“Every woman has the strength and talent to work and earn a decent income for herself and her family,” says Sumiya Ahmed, a mother of one from Taiz Governorate. As the fighting escalated in her hometown, Sumiya was forced to flee with her family to Lahj Governorate. After settling in Lahj, Sumiya and her husband started to work on farms for a small daily wage. Even with two incomes, Sumiya’s family could hardly buy food and other basics.

Substantial devaluation of the Yemeni rial (YER) has further worsened Yemen’s economy, driving up the prices of essential basic food items, goods, and services. With limited livelihood opportunities, families’ purchasing power has immensely eroded, forcing many families to adopt harmful coping strategies, including skipping meals and reducing nutritious food.

“I felt trapped in poverty,” says Sumiya. “I tried to improve my income, buying small quantities of Henna powder from the city and selling it to families and shops in the village I live in. However, my revenue was very little. I mostly earned 0.5 to 1 US dollar a day.”

A woman in black outfit standing next to a sewing machine
Sahar proudly shows the new sewing machine that she bought. Photo: Bassam Saleh/CARE

Similarly to Sumiya, Sahar, a 46-year-old mother of four, had to flee her home in Taiz Governorate and seek refuge in Lahj Governorate. Back in Taiz, Sahar took a sewing course and became a well-known seamstress in her area. And many residents in Lahj visit her to fix or redesign their clothes. “I tried to revive my sewing business, but I encountered many difficulties, including not having a sewing machine,” says Sahar. “Many Yemeni women don’t have a perfect life, yet we still deserve a chance to improve our incomes and lives.”

CARE provided monthly cash assistance of $60 to 639 families in Tuban district of Lahj Governorate, including Sumiya’s and Sahar’s families. This assistance aims to improve the resilience and food security conditions of the most vulnerable conflict-affected communities for six months. The cash assistance allows families to meet their basic needs effectively and with dignity.

“I used the cash aid to buy food for my family and saved what was left to buy raw Henna,” says Sumiya. “This was a tipping point for my small business. I used my savings to buy five bags of raw Henna. After drying and grinding the Henna, I packed the powder into small sacks and started to sell it in the market. I earn nearly $5 from each sack of Henna. I’ve already sold more than five sacks. It’s the first time in my life that I made such good profits.”

“My family hasn’t been without food since we received the cash assistance because I saved some portion of the money and bought a sewing machine in installments,” says Sahar. “I now earn about $30 to $50 a month, thanks to craft making and sewing work. I use the money to buy essentials and pay for the sewing machine installments. I feel proud when I see how our life quality has improved. Now I have a stable source of income and can send my children to school,” she concludes.

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