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Early recovery programs help restore economic stability in central Yemen

Abdulelah Taqi's picture
Also available in: العربية
City of Taiz
Photo: Ahmed Omar Lajam | World Bank
By the end of 2016, the security situation in parts of central Yemen had improved—relatively speaking—in many rural areas of the governorate of Taiz, prompting a proportion of the more than 3.2 million Yemenis displaced nationwide to return to their homes after a period of bitter suffering. Many of Yemen's returnees have faced such significant challenges since returning home, however, that some see little advantage to having done so.

One district in Taiz governorate affected by the war was Mawza'a, which had a poverty rate of 90%. The war spread to it early in 2016, and all types of weaponry were used. The violence displaced and killed civilians, placing the economic stability of survivors at risk. Among the villages affected in the district was Alaqamah, where most of the population were jobless.

Dozens of families fled Alaqamah. They lived in neighboring areas without shelter, often exposed to worse violence than in their home village itself. As calm began to return to Alaqamah, the displaced held back, remaining without aid or security in areas, such as Albarh, Mokha, and Alma'afir.

However, the Social Fund for Development’s (SFD’s) Cash-for-Work interventions encouraged IDPs and other villagers to go home and resume their old means of making a living in their home areas. It provided cash for returnees’ basic needs until they were able to get themselves going again.

The SFD is a Yemeni welfare organization that receives funding from international donors, including the United Nations and World Bank Group. The Cash-for-Work Program it launched got part of a $500,000 emergency intervention program going in Alaqamah, encouraging 150 displaced families to return to it and re-establish themselves through income-generating sub-projects. Villagers from the 510 households that participated in the program overall worked on infrastructure in the village, receiving wages for their labor.

According to Abdul Karim Musa, a member of a volunteers’ committee in Alaqamah, most households in the village had suffered from food insecurity as a result of the conflict. They were used to meals of bread soaked in tea, and they were taking their sons and daughters out of school to earn a living. After the Cash-for-Work program began, however, men among the villagers began to build a water catchment area and barrier against flash flooding in the Alaqamah valley. They also began to repair irrigation canals leading to their land, and to rehabilitate agricultural land. Women helped them by carrying stones and water.

One such woman was Khamisa Sultan, a widow, who used her income to buy food for her eight children. With additional financial support from another organization, Khamisa purchased a camel. "I bought wheat for my kids, added some money and bought a camel," Khamisa said. Currently, she uses the camel to transport food, firewood, and fodder for payments or cereals from other villagers.

Households participating in the program spent their cash on food and other basic commodities. All the residents of Alaqamah reaped the benefit of this public project.

Ghanem Ahmed was another beneficiary. He had created a vegetable garden. Until the program started, he said "We had hated living in despair and extreme poverty.” Now, “Thanks to God,” he was planting vegetables, cucumbers, and okra. “In the past, our meals were either bread with tea or with dried fish. Now we put okra and eggs in our meals. I am now preparing to expand my garden.”

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