Can cash distribution make a difference? – A family perspective from Yemen

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Petite 19-year old Munira, covered from head to toe in a black abaya and veil, invites us through a once blue metal door into her family home, in the north western province of Hajjah, bordering Saudi Arabia. Surrounded by a high fence made of branches, corrugated iron and other debris, a small courtyard of rammed clay leads to a one-room house made of wood, plastic and corrugated iron. Once the door is closed Munira lifts her veil. It is winter in Hajja, a few weeks without the usual heat and humidity. Fatima Ahmed, Munira’s mother, welcomes us into a modest and very tidy home.

Fatima and her three children, one of them disabled, are among 4000 families who are recipients of a cash distribution programme funded by ECHO so that Yemen’s poorest people can buy food. This aid contributes to reducing the huge number of around 10 million Yemenis who do not know where their next meal is coming from.

‘I earn money by cleaning other people’s houses’ explains Fatima. In addition she gets about 9,000 Yemeni Rial (about € 31) every 3 to 4 months from the Social Welfare Fund, a nation-wide safety net established by the government for the poorest of the poor . Whenever she has a little money which is not needed right away, she buys a lamb or a small goat, lets it roam around her courtyard where the little animal feeds on the few plants that grow there. She sells it once it has grown a bit bigger and fatter.

The money she received through the cash distribution organised by Oxfam at the end of November, was used to pay off debts and buy slightly more varied food.

Munira is working with Oxfam in the cash distribution programme. For a couple of months she has been part of one of the 32 teams which try to sensitise mothers to the importance of improving nutritional and hygiene practices. Malnutrition has many causes; in Yemen poverty is one, but a low awareness of good nutritional practices plays a significant role in aggravating the problem.

Munira is convinced of the benefits of the programme. Asked what she would like to change, she replies: ‘make it a permanent one’. Munira earns 15,000 Rial per month (about € 15): a good opportunity for an unmarried 19 year old girl with only a basic education to help her family in a country where 43% of the population live on less than € 2 a day.

By Heinke Veit,
Regional Information Officer in Amman