For Jaber, 32, father of five, November was the best month in 2017. This was the month he joined other men and women from his community to work in their nearby school for a cash for work programme, and so, according to him, “this was the month where I did not worry about food for my family”. The programme, supported by the OFDA as part of a project to help the recovery of populations affected by the conflict in Yemen, was meant to rehabilitate the school while employing people from the Al Jawf governorate.
Jaber is involved in cash for work activities in a district of Al Jawf governorate which, according to him, is an area that “suffers a shortage in income resources and in work opportunities.” “Providing food for my family is my day and night concern,” he adds, “I am only an ordinary labourer whose only fight is to find a job.”
As per the Yemen Socio-Economic Update report in 2017, the lack of household cash affects overall community resilience, as households are unable to purchase necessary food and domestic items, subsequently impacting the community’s markets. Lack of cash comes from loss of livelihoods and this can compel people to resort to negative coping strategies, such as reducing frequency of meals or borrowing money.
“This is a very hard time for people,” Jaber said, “prices keep increasing and finding any work opportunity has become increasingly difficult. There is nothing in our hands. All what we can do is to be patient.”
This cash for work location is one of the many ACTED and OFDA are implementing across Yemen in the governorates of Al Jawf, Raymah, Al Hudaydah, Ibb, and Al Dhale’e to support economic recovery and market systems. The idea is to immediately increase the purchasing power of vulnerable households in these areas, providing them with the agency to cover their needs.
Cash for work sites focus on community infrastructure. This can be related to market access, agricultural infrastructure and roads that connect villages to schools, health facilities, and nearby villages, as well as the general clearing of rubble and debris caused by the fighting.
Particular attention was given to long-term sustainability of the projects, notably by avoiding the sites that are usually covered by community members on a voluntary basis. Jaber contributed to the rehabilitation works of a school that was selected through consultation with community representatives of the village to ensure the sites are relevant and identified by them as the most impactful for the wider community. This school, like many others in Yemen, is underfunctioning: per the 2018 Humanitarian Needs Overview, 4.1 millions children need support to access education, and two millions are missing out on school.
Like other beneficiaries of the programme, Jaber had no steady income, resources or productive assets, which made it incredibly difficult to ensure food for his family. Through this programme, ACTED was able to employ some 1,000 workers facing Jaber’s situation. The project directly benefitted some 7,000 people, considering that each household is composed of 7 members.
Jaber’s schedule of work was comfortable with standard working hours and with the implementation of the activities that were done during daytime and in public spaces, close to his home. This work schedule was tailored across the sites of intervention, encouraging women’s participation whenever possible.
Jaber is a father and looks to that school that he participated in rehabilitating as an evidence that tomorrow can be better for his children and all other children in the area. Though the activity ended and Jaber continues to seek permanent employment opportunities to help his family, the school is according to him a sign that life will be better in the future.