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Photo essay: The fighting spirit of Yemeni women

An old woman wearing a red head scarf

Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 80 percent of the population in need of aid and assistance. The COVID-19 pandemic combined with existing problems caused by continued conflict and collapsing public services has had a disproportionate impact on Yemeni women and girls. More than 3.25 million women in Yemen are facing increased health and protection risks and struggle to access basic health care, including maternal and child health. Food and fuel prices have risen out of the reach of most people, causing acute malnutrition for millions; in particular this affects more than two million children and over one million pregnant and breastfeeding women.

In Yemen, men are usually the breadwinners of a household, and the death of a husband forces a woman to provide income for her family as well as being the primary caregiver – a double burden. Widowed women are often denied their rights to inheritance or property, and the COVID-19 crisis has amplified and deepened the vulnerability of widowed mothers and their children. Isolation compromises the ability of widows to support themselves and their families, bringing further economic hardship to many female-headed households.

CARE helps food-insecure female-headed households in Ibb governorate through cash, vouchers and food.

Dollah is a 50-year-old widowed mother of eight children – four girls and four boys. Shortly after the death of the husband, an influential person in her village tried to take Dollah’s home from her, but she fought until she was able to prove the house belonged to her and her children. Then her eldest son became mentally ill. “When my children get sick,” she says, “I treat them with natural herbs because I don’t have enough money to take them to the hospital.” Dollah considers the food assistance she receives from CARE as a lifeline.

A woman wearing a black burqa

With no proper education or training, 30-year-old Arwa struggles to provide food and other essentials for her five children. Two years ago, Arwa lost her husband. After his death, she was forced to leave her home to live in Ohain village, Ibb governorate. She rented a small room next to the landowner’s barn, the only place she could afford. Arwa’s work as a housemaid was affected by the pandemic. “People are afraid,” she says. “They don’t ask me to help them with the housework because they are isolating themselves.”

A woman wearing a black Burqa and cooking in a small kitchen

Arwa cooks a meal for her children using food she received from CARE. In the context of lockdowns and economic closures caused by COVID-19, needs have intensified for many Yemeni households. Like many other families in Yemen, Arwa’s family depends on humanitarian aid to provide food, clean water and other essentials. Arwa hopes her children will complete their education and have a decent life. “I hope the project continues to provide us with enough food so we can stay strong and healthy during COVID-19,” she says.

A woman wearing a black burqa standing in front of stone wall

Zohoor is a 48-year-old mother of eight children. She lives with her children in her parents’ house in Al Waqah village of Ibb governorate. Zohoor’s village is one of the most conflict-affected in Ibb, suffering from high poverty and a severe lack of basic services. Village residents lack access to clean water, sanitation, hygiene and other important services. “I used to dream about having my own home all the time. It is difficult to live in my parents’ house with my big family,” she says.

A stone house with children playing outside

Zohoor’s children play in front of the house their mother built. Through CARE’s intervention, locals of Zohoor’s village built a dam to improve their access to water. While the dam was constructed Zohoor earned an income working alongside men clearing away construction waste. “The wage I received from working in building the dam helped me a lot,” she says. “I bought food and medicine for my family. I also managed to save some money, and then I used my savings to build a small house for my family. I eventually owned a house and achieved my biggest dream.”

A woman wearing an orange helmet

54-year-old Seada is another strong mother who fights to raise her seven children. Seada is a farmer, but she couldn’t cultivate her land due to the scarcity of water in her village. CARE helped residents of Seada’s village to rehabilitate their road as well as the main well in the village through its cash for work intervention. Seada and other members of her community received cash for their contributions to the rehabilitation works. “The water well helps in irrigating farms, and the money helped me a lot to provide food, medicine and school items for my children. I even paid off part of my debts. Now, people can easily get to hospitals, local markets and the city,” says Seada proudly.


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