x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Four of five Yemeni women say their lives are harder since Saleh's downfall

Oxfam report reveals they are struggling to feed their families.

A woman holds her child in their home in Sanaa. A million Yemeni children face severe malnutrition within months as families struggle to pay for food in one of the Arab world's poorest countries.
A woman holds her child in their home in Sanaa. A million Yemeni children face severe malnutrition within months as families struggle to pay for food in one of the Arab world's poorest countries.

SANAA // Women in Yemen are worse off now than a year ago, when they played a significant part in the revolution that promised political and economic change, according to an international aid agency.

Four out of five Yemeni women claim their lives have gotten worse over the past 12 months, an Oxfam International report said yesterday.

Faced with an intensifying humanitarian crisis, which has left a quarter of women between the ages of 15 and 49 acutely malnourished, women say they are struggling to feed their families and are unable to participate in the country's transition.

"The food crisis is the biggest impediment," said Sultana Begum, an Oxfam humanitarian policy adviser, who wrote the report. "How do you expect people to participate in this very important process, which is going to decide the future of a country, when they are focused on day-to-day survival?"

The report, which surveyed 136 women across Yemen in July and August, also says the majority of women asserted that they felt less safe than a year ago.

They cited concern over the proliferation of small arms, gun battles in the streets of Sanaa and the risk of sexual assault. In camps for internally displaced individuals, such as in Haradh in the north, women said pressures from current crises have led to higher levels of domestic violence.

Displaced women also said they felt unsafe returning to their homes in provinces such as Abyan to the south, where the government recaptured areas from Al Qaeda militants this summer.

In addition, women said there was a lack of protection provided to them by police and other security authorities.

On the political front, women were emboldened after last year's uprisings, but now claim they feel "sidelined by the transition process and say they have been shut out of decision-making by political parties and the government", the report said.

Some of those interviewed said there should be quotas to include women in parliament and committees overseeing the transition in the new government of the president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi, who replaced the deposed leader, Ali Abdullah Saleh, in February.

Oxfam officials said they have had to scale back some of their relief efforts, which include cash distribution to needy families, because of a lack of funding. Among the recommendations in the report, they are asking the Friends of Yemen, scheduled to meet in New York this week, to immediately allocate humanitarian aid to hit the ground.

Donors in the group have pledged US$6.4 billion (Dh23.5bn), but Oxfam says there needs to be more transparency in tracking where the money goes.

"Right now, Yemen is mired in a quagmire of a humanitarian crisis, it can't pull its way out at the moment and it desperately needs more money," said Caroline Gluck, an Oxfam spokeswoman in Sanaa.