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Yemen: they found new livelihoods in small businesses

01-10-2012 Feature

Ali Mohammed and Baqla’a Hadi are among hundreds of heads of families who had to flee their villages and the fighting, and have ended up living for years in camps in Sa’ada. The ICRC is using income-generating projects help people rebuild their lives.

The story of Ali Mohammed

Ali Mohammed is a 45-year-old father of seven children. The war forced him, like other heads of family in his village, to take his children and flee their home.

“We were living a normal life," said Ali. "I was a farmer in my home town of Ghammer and I was working rented agricultural land and raising some livestock to make ends meet. We weren't rich but we were happy – we were satisfied with what we had. We didn't leave in order to improve my income; we left to save our lives."

When shelling started getting close to their house, they fled to the city of Sa'ada. “When we arrived, we heard about camps set up and run by the ICRC to help displaced people like us. We went to Elhsa camp. Once we were registered, the ICRC gave us shelter kits, mattresses, blankets, a tarpaulin and enough food for a month. I want to thank the ICRC for being there and helping us when we were in troubled times”.

Like so many others, Ali's family spent four years in the camp. Then, following a ceasefire between the Houthis and the government, Ali decided to go back to his village and start rebuilding his life there. The ICRC helped him find a livelihood by providing him with a small three-wheeled vehicle to transport goods for people. Ali also received food rations for four months, shelter kits, and essential household items to help him live with dignity until he starts getting income from his new job.

The story of Baqla’a Hadi

Baqla'a Hadi is the mother of six children. Six and a half years have passed since the family fled to Sa'ada from Hydan district. Baqla'a speaks of the hardship during the fighting – and even after they had fled: how hard it was to find bread to feed her children, the problems of equipping a tent when people all around are living in poverty. She describes the sadness of losing her home and leaving behind her elderly parents. And she talks about the everyday problems of a large family and the shortage of money.

“I was married 20 years ago," she says. "We were happy, working to raise and educate our six children. Then my husband fell ill with diabetes. But the real problems began when we had to leave our home to escape the fighting. Other villagers were being injured and killed. All we thought of was saving our children and our lives. We left everything behind, with no idea of where we were going or when we might return." They joined a huge stream of people heading to Sa'ada.

After months of wandering, they found a long-term place at a camp for the displaced in Sa’ada. But their troubles weren't over. “Sadly, my husband simply couldn't accept our new situation and he began suffering from a kind of mental illness, in addition to his diabetes. This has obliged us to live apart."

No easy life in the camp

Baqla’a’s family lived in the camp for six years together with 1,400 other displaced people. The ICRC set up shelters and water tanks and distributed monthly food rations. “It wasn't easy to live in the camp, in tents without the privacy that females need, in constant fear of being deprived of aid.”

Return to the village

Today the situation appears more stable, so Baqla’a decided to return to her village. She found her home badly damaged. The ICRC provided her with building materials to repair her house and items needed to open a small grocery store to make a living. “This has freed us from the grim conditions in the camp. A grocery business won't meet all our needs but still it’s our only source of income for the time being and I'm extremely grateful.”


Photos

Sa'ada. Ali Ali Mohammed with a three-wheeled vehicle provided by the ICRC in order to help him find a way to make a living.  

Sa'ada. Ali Ali Mohammed with a three-wheeled vehicle provided by the ICRC in order to help him find a way to make a living.
© ICRC / S. Al-Haddi

Sa'ada. Returnee's receive livestock provided by the ICRC. 

Sa'ada. Returnee's receive livestock provided by the ICRC.
© ICRC / S. Alhaddi

Sa'ada. This grocery store provided by the ICRC is to be shared by three displaced people from the same family. 

Sa'ada. This grocery store provided by the ICRC is to be shared by three displaced people from the same family.
© ICRC / S. Saleh Alhaddi

Sa'ada. A woman receives a sewing machine and fabric provided by the ICRC. 

Sa'ada. A woman receives a sewing machine and fabric provided by the ICRC.
© ICRC / S. Al-Haddi