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Ma’rib - Alia is full of life; she loves going out to spend time with her family and to laugh with the local children. But life has not been easy for Alia. She suffers from brain atrophy, which impairs her balance and lower limbs, making her unable to move on her own or to leave home often.
At 18 years of age, Alia has been displaced for many years. She lives with her four brothers and older sister, Manal, who has cared for her since she was a young girl.
“We used to carry her everywhere we would go, whether outside to a close garden or faraway to the hospital,” explained 29-year-old Manal.
When Alia was just nine, Manal married and moved away, leaving Alia with their father and stepmother.
“For a long time, Alia did not see the outside world. As she grew older, the family found it hard and felt ashamed to carry their daughter out in public,” added Manal.
One day, Alia was trying to get herself out of the restroom and fell and broke her leg. After this, Manal and her husband, Mohammed, decided to take Alia to live with them permanently.
Their three boys – Moshaeel, 12, Ameer, 10, and Madian, 18 months – bonded with Alia and learned to take care of her. They love her and consider her as their sister.
Mohammed was a shop owner and the family used to have a good income, but like many people in Yemen, he was affected by the decline of the economy brought on by seven years of conflict.
“People started to buy goods from my shop on credit. I had notebooks full of names of people and of the amounts of money they owed me. Most were unable to pay me anything as their salaries have been suspended for years,” said Mohammed.
As a result, Mohammed was unable to pay his dues to the merchants.
“I fell into bankruptcy and lost my source of income.”
In 2019, Mohammad found work across the country. He moved his family from Sana’a to Harib to work in a clothing shop, taking Alia with them. The family stayed there for two years, and when armed clashes intensified, they were forced to flee to Ma’rib.
It was very difficult for the family to start again after moving for the second time.
The family rented a house made of traditional mud. Mohammed’s family was the first family to reside in it after years of abandonment. The house was worn out and needed significant repairs to make the house sound and to accommodate Alia’s needs.
“Our main concern was how to move Alia in a safer and easier way,” said Manal.
After a long search, Mohammed found a job in one of the city’s hotels, which allowed him to repair and fix his house to make it as comfortable as it could be for Alia who spent most of the time indoors.
“Alia would feel uneasy most of the time. Staying home for a long time affected her psychologically and having to be carried every time she goes outside makes her feel uncomfortable and nervous,” explained Manal.
“Going on a monthly visit to the doctor was not easy either. She would refuse to go inside the hospital, so doctors had to meet Alia in the hospital’s yard to check her,” she added.
To save money on transportation costs, Mohammed comes home only on weekends, which puts the burden on Manal to take care of and move her sister alone.
In 2021, Alia was registered to receive multi-purpose cash assistance as part of a programme run by the International Organization for Migration (IOM) and supported by the Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF) to support the basic needs of the most vulnerable displaced people.
“Multipurpose cash assistance provides greater flexibility and choice for the most vulnerable groups among displaced families, such as female-headed households, persons with disabilities and families with children,” clarified Mohammed Abbas, a member of IOM’s Cash-Based Intervention Team.
Alia’s family was one among 2,900 families that received this cash assistance in Ma’rib in 2022.
With this cash assistance, Mohammed bought Alia a wheelchair to ease her challenges and improve her mobility. Alia’s first trip in her wheelchair was to Ma’rib’s park.
“Alia could not stop laughing the day she received her wheelchair. She was so proud and happy,” explained Manal.
In a short time, Alia managed to ride the wheelchair by herself with no help from others.
“Going outside is very important for everyone, but it has even more impact on people living with disabilities. Alia’s psychological and physical condition change for the better every time we take her outside,” said Manal
In the last year, IOM has provided 6,629 newly displaced families with multi-purpose cash assistance across 11 governorates as part of the inter-agency Rapid Response Mechanism assistance package, which was coupled with in-kind assistance from other agencies.