Poverty cannot be celebrated [Archives:2003/691/Viewpoint]

December 4 2003

It was a very long eid vacation compared to the regular vacations. A total of eleven days of leisure time was used by many Yemenis working in the private or public sectors by visiting relatives in villages or making trips to other cities.
This eid was somewhat unique in bringing together families as those working in cities were able to seize this opportunity and travel to their respective villages and enjoy their time there.
However, there were also some sad moments lived by many poor and deprived families throughout the country. Just as the wealthy and middle-class Yemenis were celebrating their eid with joy and happiness, most of the poor were also struggling to get the essential needs in feeding their children, let alone think about the new eid clothes.
Poor children could be seen begging at the doors of mosques during eid prayers, their filthy torn clothes were still on them. They continued to ask for five rials (less than 3 US cents) stretching their hands to every worshipper hurrying to leave the mosque and celebrate the eid with his family.
Their misery continued throughout the day and during the three days of the eid as they continued to roam the streets looking for food from trashcans and garbage collectors. For them, eid has brought no joy and was just like any other miserable day.
Similar images are repeated from East to West and South to North. In some areas, people die in the eid days because of lack of money to purchase medicine.
On the day before the official vacation, there was a group of poor people, mostly from the Akhdam (originally African) community waiting at certain pre-allocated stations for whatever amounts that would be given to them by the government. Long queues were formed one full day in advance to get sums as low as USD 10. Nevertheless, some still couldn't get a penny.
Poverty in Yemen is on the rise, so is unemployment and disease. Everything is pointing to a gloomy future with little hope for the upcoming generations, especially those who lack the funds to go to school and hence revert to the street where they beg and become street children.
This is why the eid that just passed wasn't an eid in the true sense for a significant portion of the population. What I fear is that this portion would increase in size if nothing is done to limit the ever increasing poverty and unemployment rates.
Let us join hands to seek ways to enhance the standard of living of those who were deprived from the joy of eid. After all, we need to at least have them smile and feel happy in this precious time. Isn't this what eid is all about?
Just as poverty cannot be celebrated by the poor during the eid, it should not have been celebrated by some corrupt officials who spend millions of rials during those days knowing that hundreds of thousands don't know the true meaning of eid joy.
Will the conscience of those officials awake one day?