Food vouchers do more than alleviate hunger

Yemen

July 9, 2013

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  • Roqia's eight-year-old daughter Adela picking up her family's food vouchers while Roqia was still observing the Islamic mourning period after her husband's death. Photo: Mona Abdulwahed Alariqi/Mercy Corps
  • The home where Roqia lives with her six children. The seaside region of Yemen is prone to food shortages and acute poverty, making it even harder for the mother to support her family on her own. Photo: Mona Abdulwahed Alariqi/Mercy Corps

It’s not often that we see an eight-year-old girl arrive to pick up her family’s monthly food voucher. But her mother, Roqia, couldn’t attend — as a recent widow following Islamic tradition, she could not leave home for four months and ten days after her husband’s death. So little Adela had come to help her entire family.

Before the tragedy, Roqia and her six children lived on the modest daily wages that her husband brought home as a laborer at the seaport — the equivalent of $2-$4 USD. It was always a struggle.

The family lives in an area prone to seasonal food shortages, high rural poverty and acute malnutrition. Like many other villages in the region, people in Mokha suffer from limited access to food due to the unstable security situation. The political unrest in Yemen, especially in nearby Taiz, has also ignited price increases for basic supplies like food, water and fuel, forcing previously self-sufficient families into poverty.

Roqia’s situation became even more desperate after her husband was shot defending himself against a robbery. With no means of support, she was forced to send her 15-year-old son to work.

But after her daughter brought home their first of eight monthly food vouchers, the family was able to buy enough flour, oil, beans and rice to feed them every month, allowing Roqia to focus on other needs.

“As a widow, I was preoccupied with my family's needs and how I could afford my child's education,” Roqia later shared with us. “But my son is now studying as if his dad was still alive. My husband’s death left a big hole in my heart — this hole was filled with serenity when Mercy Corps showed up.”

The team has still not forgotten the day they first met Roqia’s little girl, Adela. Knowing that we could help her and her family by lightening a heavy burden and allowing them to properly grieve their loss — that is what keeps us motivated to do even more.