Skip to main content
European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations

Helping people help themselves: cash assistance in Yemen

Bashir carries the new bread oven for his family.
Bashir carries the new bread oven for his family.
© Elham Al-Oqabi/ IOM 2022

Bashir, a father of 6 from Yemen, did not have the luxury of packing up his house before he left home in 2016 due to the conflict. Instead, he was forced to flee with the few belongings he could carry.

“War does not wait for you to think or prepare yourself. It storms through your life suddenly, taking away everything from you,” says Bashir.

To help people displaced by the conflict purchase what they need to start over, the EU and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) are distributing cash assistance. With this money, Bashir decided to buy a bread oven to support his family.

When Bashir and his family fled for the first time, they had nothing but clothes.

“When you must run, nothing is more important than saving the lives of your loved ones. Later, you discover that life can be unbearable without the basic necessities.”

Since conflict first reached their home 6 years ago, Bashir’s family has had to flee 4 times. 4 times he had to rebuild a home, buy new belongings and see his resources dwindle.

2 years ago, the family settled in Jaw Al Naseem site in Ma’rib, where the family is still today. This time they built their shelter, hoping they could remain there until peace returns.

Bashir used to own a farm which allowed him to provide for his children comfortably. Now, he works as a bus driver with wages that barely cover his family’s basic needs.

Displaced people might have access to markets when goods are available, but most lack the money to buy anything.

In the past, cash assistance often came with the condition of spending it on food. Meanwhile, we have come to realise that people in need are often better placed to know what is most useful to improve their situation and new homes.

“A life of displacement is full of hardship, especially for women who care for their families. We must ensure that the whole family is eating and living well. What can a good chef cook in an empty kitchen?” said Fatimah, Bashir’s wife.

Lighting the bread oven

Bashir and IOM staff around the bread oven while a child is watching at the foreground
Bashir and IOM staff check the EU-funded items he purchased.
© Elham Al-Oqabi/ IOM 2022

To help people displaced by the conflict get what they need to start over, IOM launched a cash-for-shelter and non-food items programme with the support of the EU.

So far, around 1,700 families in five sites in Ma’rib, a governorate which has long been on the frontline of the conflict, have been given cash assistance to improve their shelters.

“Cash assistance helps displaced people recover and become self-reliant. It gives them the dignity of choice and purchasing power, which also improves the local economy and helps local retailers,” explained Muthafar Asma of IOM’s Shelter team. 

Bashir’s father with his grandson fills his air conditioner with the required water.
Bashir’s father with his grandson fills his air conditioner with the required water.
© Elham Al-Oqabi/ IOM 2022

When Bashir received the cash assistance, he bought a bread oven, a kitchen set for his family, and an air conditioner for his elderly father. His father, being of old age, has suffered from the intense heat.

“Our old oven was in bad condition. It consumed gas and burned the bread, and it leaked gas which could cause a fire explosion at any moment,” explained his wife, Fatimah.

Not far from Bashir lives his brother-in-law Jamal who also received cash assistance. He used it to rehabilitate one of the rooms, build a fence between the yard and the road, and buy gas cylinders and a kitchen set.

“Providing the house with the missing items has been my priority. It will not only help my wife, but it could protect her life and the life of our baby,” explained Jamal, whose wife is pregnant.

“It makes me feel more comfortable and confident. I will no longer have to borrow these items from my neighbours. Now it is my turn to help them,” said Jamal’s wife Sumayah.

Story by Elham Al Oqabi and Mennatallah Homaid, IOM communication assistants.
Publication date: 22/09/2022