Ali Abdullah al-Moudai – Community liaison officer, Yemen

Ali Abdullah al-Moudai, 28, from the village of Thula, about an hour’s drive from Yemen’s capital Sana’a, is lucky enough to have a reasonably well-paid job. The downside is that as the sole breadwinner in his 14-member household he has nothing left at the end of the month.

Name: Ali Abdullah al-Moudai

Age: 28

Location: Thula

Does your spouse/partner live with you? Yes.

What is your primary job? Community liaison officer for an energy exploration company.

What is your monthly salary? $1,366, plus $500-600 when I work as a tourist guide.

What is your household’s total income - including your partner’s salary, and any additional sources? The same.

How many people are living in your household - what is their relationship to you? 14 - wife, son, mother, sisters, brothers, their children

How many are dependent on you/your partner's income - what is their relationship to you? All of them.

How much do you spend each month on food? $840-930.

What is your main staple - how much does it cost each month? Wheat - $186 for 300kg.

How much do you spend on rent? I own my house.

How much on transport? More than $233.

How much do you spend on educating your children each month? $117-140.

After you have paid all your bills each month, how much is left? Nothing.

Have you or any member of the household been forced to skip meals or reduce portion sizes in the last three months? Of course, a lot of times we have to live like Spartans. What do you do, you know, because you have no help from the government. About two years ago prices started becoming very high. Tomatoes, for example, which we have to buy every day - we had to reduce this expense.

Have you been forced to borrow money, or food, in the last three months to cover basic household needs? Yes, every month.

“I have a job that’s good for me and my [wife and one boy], but it’s not just us. I’m responsible for my whole family because there’s no one to work but me. If I didn’t provide for them, they'd be on the streets.

“Even with my salary from the company, plus extra income from working with tourists when possible, I have to borrow a lot of money at the end of each month to make ends meet. Making enough money to feed, clothe and provide for 14 people is difficult. And someone is always getting sick.

“My father, for instance, had to have a cancerous tumour removed this year. The government hospital where he had the surgery says it gives you care for free, but it’s not free: the room and the operation were free, but medication and transport back and forth from Thula to Sana’a were not.

“And after he spent more than three months in the hospital and had the operation, it was not enough. When we moved him home he became sicker and sicker, until he died a few months later.

We spend 15-16,000 riyals [$70-75] every two weeks on water from water trucks, which is more expensive than government water, which we have had only two times in last year and half.

“I’ve tried to save extra money more than 40 times, but it’s never possible. Without any savings, what if there’s an accident and I die, or I get sick and can’t move?

“Will things be better in a year? No, not at all, at all, at all. You have too many things in Yemen: the Southern Movement trying to secede, Houthis fighting the government, al-Qaeda, the old government versus the new government. How can you arrange everything in one year? Maybe five years and we will see changes.

“Now we can say we have a new government and that the country has changed, but what has really changed? Most of the people from the old government are in the new government. And there is still no good news for Yemenis. Still no one has jobs.

“I know it is shameful to talk about the country and the government like this, but it is the real situation. We have to talk about the truth.

“We hope that the [upcoming] National Dialogue will lead to changes. But we don’t want to just hear promises on the TV or in the news. We want to see the changes happen. So far the new government is saying the same things as old government.

“Yemen is like the sea, where the big fish are eating the small fish.”


June 2013 update