After the death of his parents, Shuei left his village in Tehama and traveled to Hodeida to escape poverty. What he didn’t know was that poverty was a deeply loyal friend who would not leave his side so easily. After years of struggling, Shuei stopped studying searching for a job that might feed him adequately: life and his circumstances were just too harsh. At the age of 16 he returned to his village and married Saida, whose economic prospects were no better than his. Poverty, early marriage, unemployment and illiteracy: all these were present in their new lives.
In a moment of despair, they decided to move back to the city; it was said that work opportunities were more there. Saida and Shuei did not realize that these chances existed in the city only for those with certificates and experience. In fact, Shuei and his wife were lucky in that they found a place to live on one of the most developed streets in Hodeida’s commercial district. They built a small room on traded land, and Shuei worked as a cleaner, builder, porter, and sometimes beggar to scrape together a daily income. Shuei and his wife did not think about their future in those days, or whether they might want to have children.
Thirty years passed and nothing changed in their lives, except for the birth of their five children. The children were raised in their one-room house and on the same daily income that Shuei and Saida had been using for years. This same tragedy is now repeating itself with their children.
“We have become used to this life, where we have nothing in our hands. My children also help us make a living,” Saida said. “I wish I could offer my children a better life.”
This was a family living in the middle of the city of Hodeida on one of its most developed streets, and no one paid attention to them. This says nothing of the lives of those people still in Tehama, who lack the most basic requirements to live. Many of these people still grapple with poverty, early marriage, and a lack of schools and jobs.
Al-Dnabjh, al-Ghannami Eda’a and other districts and areas in the province of Hodeida have developed a tragic reputation for the miserable life suffered by their residents, but perhaps the most painful aspect of this crisis is that the government does nothing to alleviate the suffering of its citizens. Many of the residents of these areas are not ethnic Yemenis, and they suffer from a severe dearth of basic services. These citizens don’t see any government activities or programs established for their benefit: only those implemented by international organizations.
For years, children in Al-dnabjh received their education in mosques, under trees, or in straw houses. Recently, however, a school was opened in the village. The children were so happy that they had a new school, but their happiness was hampered by the fact that the school was only for primary students. To continue their education at higher levels, children had to walk almost two hours to reach the next closest school outside the village.
Mr. Ahmed, a local resident, said that most of the students stop their education in order to set out and find work, whether in the village, other Yemeni cities, or even other Gulf countries.
Director of literacy and adult education in the Hodeida governorate, Muhammad Ali Wahn, said that illiteracy has increased to 70% of the total population of Hodeida.
Some villages have no electricity, and most people live without TV, radio or telephones. Many necessities must be brought to the village from Hodeida itself, because the village does not have a grocery. Amina, an elderly village woman, says that life in their village is very simple, and people rely on the land to satisfy their hunger.
“There are some differences between men and women in terms of feeding and nutrition. The man suffers less, because he can enter the city by bicycle and taste the delicious foods there. Women, on the other hand, must rely on meals she can get or make localy, some of which are free of important healthy elements. Therefore, women suffer from poor nutrition that may negatively affect her children.”
In Hodeida villages, people suffer from a lack of health centers for those who are dying from illnesses; many are forced to go to the city for treatment. Dr. Abbas Motaher, director of the Health Office in Al-dnajbh, says that they can only offer simple services. There is no central hospitals or other qualified health centers in the district. Studies said that there are only three doctors per 10,000 people, and at the national level 40 percent of the children get on health care. Only
A recent study by UNICEF found that a healthy economic situation is a determining factor for the health of children in Yemen. Only 20% of Yemen’s population has access to health services in rural communities.
All the problems in villages derive from the poverty that plagues these areas: even the endemic of early marriage is born in part of the need to transplant one family member to another household.
Samah, a mother of five girls, said that it is better for them to be married, because then at least they can find good food.
In reality, these girls are often marrying men of no better economic class. Many in the region still lack awareness of these issues. Even the help provided by NGOs is insufficient, because NGO projects only target certain groups for a few months at a time.