A groundbreaking mapping of 9,200 Muhamasheen (also known as Al-Akhdam) households carried out by UNICEF and the Social Welfare Fund (SWF) in Yemen reveals drastic disparities in education, housing, child protection and water and sanitation between the marginalized Muhamasheen community and the general population.

The Muhamasheen are considered an outcaste community in Yemen and are discriminated against on all levels. About 10 per cent of Yemenis are believed to be “Muhamasheen”– a historically marginalized group that often faces discrimination due to widespread perceptions that they are descended from servants. While it has been widely known that this community is particularly disadvantaged, this mapping is the first time statistical evidence is brought forward to support this knowledge, and the figures are alarming.

Survey Information

The Muhamasheen Mapping Survey (MMS) Survey in Taiz was organized by UNICEF, the Social Welfare Fund (SWF) and Interaction for Development. It covered 9,160 Muhamasheen households (51,406 people) in Taiz and was carried out in 2014. The general population figures used to benchmark the results against are from the 2012 National Social Protection Monitoring Survey (NSPMS). The mapping serves as a baseline, and will be repeated after two years to assess the impact of these interventions.

Access to services

Significant disparities are found in access to services such as water and sanitation, electricity, quality of housing. For example only 9% of the homes of Muhamasheen communities have piped water against 29% of the general population, and only 42% of Muhamasheen households have a latrine inside their dwelling. It was also found that over half of the children under 1 year old from the Muhamasheen households had not received immunizations.

Education and illiteracy divides

When it comes to literacy and education the Muhamasheen community lags seriously behind the general population with an adult illiteracy rate (percentage of adults who cannot read and write) of 80% compared to 40% of the general population. While there are 52% of Muhamasheen children (10-14) who cannot read and write there are only 17% of the general population’s children that cannot read and write. A similar disparity is seen in the Youth illiteracy rate with 67% of Muhamasheen youth (15-24) being illiterate and only 23% of the general population. Even if you compare the Muhamasheen community to the poorest segment of the general population, the Muhamasheen are often far more likely to be illiterate.

When it comes to enrolment rates of Muhamasheen children into school, and the amount of children and youths in school, again great divides are seen between the Muhamasheen community and general population.

Employment and assets

The survey also maps the types of employment that the Muhamasheen community are engaged in and household asset ownership. For example it is found that half as many Muhamasheen households own a mobile phone compared to the general population and only 6% own a refrigerator compared to 30% of the general population.

Severe under coverage of the Social Welfare Fund

It is revealed that while Muhamasheen households should be among those most likely to benefit from the Government’s primary social protection cash transfer programme (SWF), there is an alarming under coverage of the Muhamasheen community of 80% compared to an under coverage of 46% at the national level. This means that despite the Muhamasheen community ranking at the bottom of almost all tables, the welfare offered to them from the Government is falling drastically short.

UNICEF and the Social Welfare Fund are using the findings to create change

The mapping, according to UNICEF, forms a basis step to start an integrated package of social inclusion interventions, mainly in the form of child-sensitive financial inclusion of Muhamasheen communities. This means linking households to basic social services, as well as social protection, especially Social Welfare Fund (SWF) cash transfers. Key implementers are the SWF Office in Taiz Governorate as well as Alamal Microfinance Bank (AMB), a non-profit organization established to provide financial services to the poorest communities.

“The Muhamasheen [“Al Akhdam”] population constitute some ten per cent of Yemen’s population. Reaching the most vulnerable, facilitating access to basic social services such as water, education and health care and ensuring equal opportunities for every child is a key mandate of UNICEF”, says Jeremy Hopkins, UNICEF’s Deputy Representative in Yemen.

The partnerships will focus on child-sensitive education and inclusion interventions; financial education and savings accounts for mothers and children aged 10-17; empowerment to demand and access basic social and protection services. SWF will distribute school kits and uniforms to all children and will advocate with schools to ensure their enrolment. In addition, birth registration cards will be issued to all children in the targeted Muhamasheen communities.

The mapping serves as a baseline, and will be repeated after two years to assess the impact of these interventions.

More information

IDSN Yemen Country Profile

UNICEF situation Report – Muhamasheen: Reaching Marginalised Communities