Crisis in Yemen: Saving lives, giving hope

By Lucy Beck, Emergency Response Specialist at CARE

Keeping your sense of self and, as a women, your femininity, can be hard when bombs are falling all around you and you’re running out of food and water, let alone makeup and perfume. But it is important. Keeping hope alive and holding on to the things that make you who you are when everything around you is falling apart is important.

Nineteen year-old Shymaa, like most Yemeni women, loves Bakhoor – the traditional scented perfume worn by nearly all. But the raw ingredients and equipment needed to make it are expensive. She experimented in her home and her friends and family loved it, but she never imagined she would be able to do it as anything more than an occasional hobby until she was selected by CARE for a business loan.

“This fund changed my life, it made me powerful and I am able to support my family,” says Shymaa.

Not only does it allow normal life to continue for the women she sells the Bakhoor to in her neighbourhood; it also provides Shymaa with vital income for herself and her family.

As her mother Om Abdullah says; “I am proud of my daughter, she helps in the house…We are a big family and life became so difficult that we barely can buy food for a meal or two.”

This new Bakhoor business is a lifeline for the family. Day-to -day life for Shymaa, like millions of her fellow countrymen, is becoming harder and harder the longer the conflict continues. Since the outbreak of conflict, more than 50 per cent of the population now struggle to find their next meal for the day and one in every eight children is now at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

Shymaa is just one of 35 young people in the northeastern district of Hajjah who has received this kind of small business loan. CARE selects participants, based on the business plans they provide and helps them with the setup of their businesses and basic training. Over fifty percent of those selected are women.

“The youth need hope-saving as much as life-saving aid. We need to build hope and not just focus on the humanitarian crisis, which is of course very important. For those that live in Yemen they also have other needs. The youth in particular are still trying to hold on to their dreams. But they need support in this. Our dream is that people can still live normally and not just day by day on external aid,” says Edrees Al-Qadasi, CARE Yemen’s Youth Program Manager.

In Yemen, 70 per cent of the population is under the age of 21. Unemployment was already high and has skyrocketed in the past year since the conflict escalated. Without employment opportunities, young people are at huge risk of military recruitment, as their income-generating options are increasingly limited.

Since the conflict began in March 2015, it has become harder and harder for regular businessmen and women to make ends meet. The prices they can get for their goods have dropped and it is increasingly hard to find customers when the threat of constant airstrikes means women are now staying inside all day. Shymaa has had to be resourceful has to try even harder and be more creative to find ways to get her product out there. Her networks at the University where she studies has been one good way to find potential clients.

Despite the many challenges Shymaa will not be put off, she still has big dreams.

“In five years, I’m going to be the best Bakhoor maker and sell to all the classy women in Sana’a,” she says.

CARE isproviding providing food, water and job training to the most vulnerable displaced people as a result of the conflict in Yemen. Your support is needed.