Aid workers and experts are calling it the world’s forgotten crisis.
More than 17 million people in the country of Yemen — roughly half the population — are struggling to eat. Nearly 5 million face starvation.
Already the poorest country in the Middle East, war and dysfunction have hobbled the country’s infrastructure and made eating a privilege of the lucky few.
In the capital city of Sana’a, markets are still open. But few people have money to buy the tomatoes, cucumbers, dates and other food they sell. Government employees have not been paid in 18 months. Herdsmen have either sold or eaten the livestock that used to produce the milk and other items that brought them income. Outside the capital, even the markets have failed. International aid organizations have sent thousands of tons of grain, pulses, vegetable oil and other necessities to feed these communities. But the supplies often languish in Yemen’s ports, blocked by conflict.
Relief International provides food vouchers through the World Food Programme to families in the most vulnerable communities so that they can purchase available food. When food items manage to get through, Relief International also distributes food to these vulnerable communities. The food we bring is often the only food these families receive. At the same time, Relief International treats malnourished children and is working to curb the cholera outbreak that already has left 2,000 dead.
This work saves lives. And we must do more of it. For that, we need the help of compassionate donors.
Relief International supports people in the areas of Sana’a, Hajjah, Aden and Amran. They are people like Moneer, Sami, Maher and Mona. Here are their stories:
“We would have died of hunger if this organization did not help us with food.”
Moneer, 40, and his son, Sami, traveled to RI’s food voucher distribution site on foot. A government employee, Moneer has not received his salary in almost a year. He is one of many Yemenis — 30 percent of the population, in fact — who have suffered since salaries to public sector employees were suspended in 2016. With four children to feed, Moneer relies on RI’s support.
“The vouchers help enormously to get my family through these hard times.”
Maher signs for his family's food vouchers with his thumb print. Maher has been unemployed since an airstrike destroyed the textile factory in which he worked. With food covered by RI's vouchers, Maher can pay for the other basic survival needs of his wife and newborn son.
RI staff distribute food vouchers from an abandoned building in Sana’a. Intended to be a school, construction was halted when the war broke out. Outside the grounds motorbikes and public transport minivans whiz noisly by. Inside, people gather quietly under the building's eaves to collect their monthly vouchers and talk amiably among themselves.
“We have lost everything because of the war. I have eight sons and they used to work and were able to support me. Now there is no work and they can hardly feed their own families.”
Mona, 70, is a widow with eight sons and four daughters. Pictured here in the traditional clothes of the Old City of Sana'a, Mona suffers from high blood pressure but has no money for medicine. Mona relies completely on the assistance she receives from RI to survive.
“Some days the job can be difficult and being exposed to such desperation can be emotionally taxing. But at the end of the day, I’m happy doing this work and knowing I’m involved in helping people here.”
Liza Abdulkareem, 26, was once a private sector employee. Today, she staffs the front lines of Yemen's humanitarian crisis distributing food vouchers to her fellow Yemenis as a Relief International employee.
“Working to support our beneficiaries and hearing their stories has increased my understanding of the severity of the situation here in Yemen and how vulnerable many people are.”
Ali Hamed, 31, has worked for Relief International since 2015. Here, he distributes food vouchers in an unfinished concrete classroom, strewn with trash blown in thorough the absent doors and windows.