THE BLOG

Yemenis Struggle to Make Ends Meet

27/04/2014 16:29 BST | Updated 27/06/2014 10:59 BST

I meet Hassan and his wife Fatimah in the remote and poverty stricken village of Ashawa in Hodeidah, western Yemen. Hassan tells me things have never been so bad for his family. He's struggling to pay medical bills and put enough food on the table.

"Last year our daughter became ill and I had to take her all the way to Hodeidah city for treatment. On the second day, we were told that the medical bill was more than $450 and I had no choice but to bring her home. She is still ill and in need of care."

Hassan motions to his six year old daughter Aisha to come and join us. Aisha is thin and low on energy, reminding me that malnutrition is still a real problem in Yemen affecting more than one million children under the age of five.

Hassan tells me that he's struggling to support his seven daughters and only son with his lowly income. He only has a few goats and depends on the annual harvest of sorgum to get by. Hassan says that his crops can sell for up to $1200 during a good year but that's only $100 a month to feed a family of ten.

"Our harvest is not enough, " Hassan explains. "We are already in debt to the local shop and we can't keep skipping dinner. We only eat flour and sugar and a small fish between ten people for lunch every day," Hassan explains.

Hassan's story is not unique. More than 4.5million people, like Hassan, will go to bed hungry tonight in Yemen. Hassan tells me that he cannot afford to eat dinner for at least three to four months out of the year.

Hassan gives me a tour of his village. He tells me there is no healthcare here, not even a pharmacy. But he's not alone; almost 9million people are unable to access sufficient healthcare in Yemen. To make matters worse, Hassan's wife, Fatimah is not well. Fatimah cradles her frail body and tells me in a soft, broken voice, that she's tired and weak. She cannot even do simple housework without experiencing excruciating pain in her joints. She too needs medical attention, but the family has too much debt. I know that a trip to the hospital would surely result in more skipped meals and potentially devastating consequences for Hassan's family.

None of Hassan and Fatimah's children attend school. With no female teachers, there is no school for girls in the village. Fatimah tells me regretfully that their only son, Ali, now 20 years of age, could not attend school as the cost for books and pens was simply out of reach for the family. Ali couldn't find work but last month he took part in an Oxfam cash for work scheme and joined others in building a system to collect run off rain water from the mountains.

"We used all the money Ali earned to pay off our debts", Hassan smiles. "This meant that we didn't have to sell any of our goats last month. Now we can sell them for more than double the amount when they grow larger," explained Hassan.

It's a start but Hassan and Fatimah desperately need assistance now to ensure they can feed their children, and give their seven daughters an education. Fatimah urgently needs access to affordable health care services, and clean drinking water. But above all they need world leaders at the Friends of Yemen conference in London this week to deliver their promised funds to help put the country on track to a better future.