Since the outbreak of the civil war in Yemen eight years ago, the lives of its people have been marked by hardship, uncertainty, and a bitter struggle for survival. This report, 'Voices from Yemen', aims to shed light on their experiences, providing a human context for the quantitative data presented in 'Surviving in the Times of War'.
Over the course of four years (2019-2022), we conducted in-depth interviews with 156 individuals from different Governorates across Yemen. The goal of these interviews was not to generate statistically representative findings, but to document a range of experiences illustrating the hardships endured by the Yemeni population.
One of the themes that emerged from these interviews was the prevalence of food insecurity. In an effort to stretch limited resources, families have had to resort to extreme coping mechanisms, including reducing meal frequency, limiting the variety of food they consume, and prioritizing which family members eat. A male respondent from Al Mahwit described the agonizing trade-offs his family is forced to make:
"Sometimes we sleep with no dinner. My wife and I, no one knows what we eat or what we don’t. Sometimes when I have some money for dinner, my wife tells me that the kids need milk, so I buy them milk and we sleep without having dinner. The kids are more important."
Children have also been hit hard in their education journeys. Schools are underfunded, teachers are scarce, and many families cannot afford to send their children to school at all. A school principal from Hajjah depicts the dire state of education:
"My school has 1050 students, and it is only six rooms, one of which is residential for two teachers, one for the principal’s office, and the remaining four rooms for all grades. We have three shifts for different grades. One of the teachers had to bring his family from Hodeida governorate as conflict intensified there, so we had to move the other teacher to live under the staircase. There is no restroom or water in the building."
Healthcare access is equally compromised, with many individuals forgoing medical care except in the most severe emergencies due to high costs and limited availability of services. A health worker from Hodeida governorate spoke on the dire state of healthcare services:
"We used to offer services and medicine for free. Now we have to charge the patients and write them a prescription to buy medicine from pharmacies. People stopped coming, and they shy away. They can’t afford all that, given that commuting here will also cost them a lot. It is even a hardship for staff who spend half of their salaries on transportation."
Internally displaced Yemenis are grappling with an added layer of hardship. As they navigate a perilous journey to safety and struggle to secure the bare necessities for survival, they continue to face the threat of displacement, the erosion of their livelihoods, and the specter of rising living costs. An individual from Al-Baida governorate recounts his heart-rending experience of displacement:
"We had to leave our town because the war destroyed our homes. We had four homes. Our life is very tough here and there. The rent is also very expensive. We cannot afford that. All of us moved, even my in-laws. From Raada we first moved to a house that was expensive to rent, then we moved to another house where we could afford to pay the rent. It is difficult to live everywhere in Yemen."
'Voices from Yemen' illuminates the inextricable connections between Yemen's humanitarian crisis and the economic and social landscape. The conflict and subsequent humanitarian response have disrupted the local economy, affecting all sectors from education to healthcare. Displacement further compounds these challenges, affecting food availability, education access, health provision, and livelihood stability.
Yet, what resonates most from these narratives is not just the scale of the suffering, but how the Yemeni people often have no other choice than to endure while turning to destructive coping strategies. This report underscores the urgency for comprehensive and sustainable solutions to alleviate the tremendous hardships faced by Yemen's people. Their stories are a call to action: for policymakers, humanitarian actors, and the international community to move beyond short-term aid and towards interventions that restore more sustainable livelihoods, address the root causes of the crisis, and build a foundation for a more stable and prosperous Yemen.