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Longing for the life I used to have

Three people sitting on the floor

Mohammed and his wife in an unfurnished room describing their journey to CARE staff

Mohammed and his wife in an unfurnished room describing their journey to CARE staff

For many centuries, trading was the major source of income for Yemenis who were famous for travelling and trading all over the world. “I was an immigrant tradesman in Saudi Arabia for many years,” says Mohammed Ali, a 60-year-old father from Hodeidah city. “I used to import clothes and sell them at one of the markets there. After I married I decided to come back to my hometown of Hodeidah and start my own business selling clothes.”

Mohammed settled in Hodeidah city, built a house and worked on his business of importing and selling clothes. He describes how he used to spend his days prior to the war: “I used to go to my shop in the morning and come back home at night, while my wife took care of the household chores. We are both illiterate and infertile. We don’t have children.”

In June 2018, Hodeidah was hit hard by the war. Humanitarian agencies warned of catastrophic consequences since the port of Hodeida plays a crucial role in delivering food and aid to Yemen. “One day,” says Mohammed, “after returning home and having dinner, my wife and I slept peacefully thinking about the next day’s business and hoping for better trading. Unfortunately, the sound of an explosion woke us up and we realised warplanes were hovering all over the place. The sound of shelling was everywhere. I peeked through the window and saw burning houses. We were literally terrified. We had to leave immediately and we left with nothing – we didn’t have time to pack things up, it all happened so quickly. I lost everything including the shop, which was our only source of income.”

Mohammed managed to rent a car to Sana’a, Yemen’s capital city. “Though the cost of transportation was very high, I rented a car and I prayed all the way that we wouldn’t be hit by an airstrike. Luckily, we were outside the city limits and away from the warplanes flying overhead.” They reached Sana’a, where they knew no one. He tried to find a job or any source of income but in vain. Mohammed couldn’t bear the daily expenses in Sana’s city and decided to flee again to the neighbouring governorate of Amran, believing life would be easier there and less expensive.

Since 2015, the war in Yemen has forced many to make difficult decisions to either flee their homes and face the risks of displacement or stay home and experience death. A total of 3.6 million people have been internally displaced, of whom at least 75% are women and children who are often extremely vulnerable. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Yemen tend to have less access to basic essential services and work opportunities, and they are often reliant on humanitarian aid.

Mohammed rented a small apartment in Amran and started to look for a job. “I tried to find a job, but it is really hard,” he says. “Some days we eat only one meal a day and the landlord is not patient with money.”

Through the UNFPA-led multi-agency Rapid Response Mechanism (RRM), CARE helps all newly displaced people in Amran with immediate lifesaving emergency packages. Mohammed’s family received a standard relief package that includes ready to eat food, basic hygiene materials, and a female transit kit – all of which were extremely appreciated by the family. Such a response to the new arrivals of displaced families is critical to ease their immediate suffering. Although it provides instant relief to displaced families that have endured so much, more sustainable solutions must be found.

Though life continues to be hard, Mohammed is thankful he only lost material goods in the conflict, and not his family. He is grateful for the support he received from CARE.  “I hope I can receive a food basket every month and cash assistance to pay the rent,” he says. “Otherwise, I will end up living in the open with my wife. I also hope the war stops and I can go back to my city to have the life I used to have.”

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