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Cash Grants Seen as Life-Line for Yemeni Displaced

FILE - Women display paper currency after they received it in the form of assistance from the U.N. Children's Agency UNICEF, in Sana'a, Yemen, Nov. 14, 2015.

The U.N. refugee agency (UNHCR) says it is giving millions of dollars in cash to more than 150,000 of the most vulnerable people displaced by more than three years of civil war in Yemen.

UNHCR says in doing so it is stepping up its efforts to ease the plight of tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians caught up in a war that shows no sign of winding down.

UNHCR spokesman Andrej Mahecic said his agency is providing vulnerable people displaced by the war with money they can use as they see fit as the best way to help them meet their immediate survival needs.

“This allows UNHCR to provide assistance to families in hard to reach and remote areas. Cash assistance is the most cost-efficient way to offer a flexible and dignified form of support. Those benefiting say it helps them to avoid resorting to desperate coping mechanisms, such as child labor and forced marriages,” Mahecic said.

The United Nations calls the situation in Yemen the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. The price of food and fuel has skyrocketed since March 2015. That is when Saudi Arabia began its bombing campaign against Houthi rebels in support of the government. The United Nations says more than 22 million people need international assistance and more than eight million are on the brink of famine.

Mahecic said many of the estimated 2.7 million displaced people have depleted all their resources. He said UNHCR’s cash grants are providing a critical lifeline to some of them.

“The selected families receive cash to cover their immediate protection needs, for example life-saving medical treatments and subsidies that help families avoid evictions and secure a roof over their heads. This assistance is benefiting the local economy, as families buy essential goods in local stores and pay for the local services,” he said.

Mahecic said the UNHCR has distributed almost $33 million in cash assistance. He said the agency aims to distribute a total of more than $41 million before the end of the year. This, he said, will end up benefiting 830,000 IDPs, returnees and conflict-affected host communities, refugees and asylum seekers across Yemen.