Human Rights

Food reaches starving Yemenis in al-Hodeida

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

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A Yemeni father and son receive food aid in the coastal province of al-Hodeida. [Photo courtesy of Angela for Development and Humanitarian Response]

Civil society and charitable organisations have set out to aid the people of Yemen's al-Hodeida province who are suffering from increased levels of hunger and poverty as a result of the ongoing war.

Al-Hodeida is afflicted with high rates of poverty and malnutrition, and many "do not know where their next meal will come from", UN Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O'Brien said at the conclusion of an October visit .

To address the situation, charitable and civil society organisations have been working with private sector companies and individuals to organise food convoys, fundraisers and food distribution to the needy in the western coastal province.

Recent aid efforts include a November 17th convoy organised by the Sanaa Chamber of Commerce and Industry that distributed 4,500 food baskets to the needy in al-Hodeida's al-Lihya and al-Zahra directorates.

Each basket contained flour, sugar, rice, oil and other food items.

In early November, the Special Family organisation distributed 636 food baskets to needy residents in Bajil directorate; while the Know Your Country campaign launched by Yemen FM radio distributed 475 food baskets in al-Hali directorate.

The Yemen Organisation for Humanitarian Relief and Development also distributed 400 food baskets and care packages in Zabid directorate.

Other initiatives to help the people of al-Hodeida include those conducted by Angela for Development and Humanitarian Response and Ibb-based al-Salam.

Raising funds

Social media contributed to the success of several fundraisers launched to aid al-Hodeida residents, including an initiative by government employee Mohamed Issam, who succeeded in collecting 1.5 million Yemeni riyals ($6,000).

"We launched our initiatives to help our brothers in al-Hodeida province after seeing the images of malnutrition and hunger posted widely on social media," he told Al-Mashareq.

"[This] prompted us to launch an initiative among friends and acquaintances on Facebook and WhatsApp, and within a week, we managed to collect about 1.5 million riyals that we used to buy 135 food baskets," he said.

"After that, we looked for a charitable organisation to help us deliver this aid to al-Tuhaytah area, because it was among the most affected," he said.

The group reached out to Angela for Development and Humanitarian Response, which had been working on a similar campaign but on a wider scale.

"Together we reached the targeted areas and distributed the food baskets to the needy," Issam said.

Rising poverty

Al-Hodeida "has the poorest living conditions and highest level of human suffering, because most of its residents depend for their livelihood on fishing, which stopped because of the war", said Angela for Development and Humanitarian Response head Angela Abu Asba.

Abu Asba headed a campaign to help lift living conditions in al-Tehamah coastal plain, she told Al-Mashareq, adding that images of starving children stirred people's sympathies and were the catalyst for its success.

The Save Our People fundraiser focused on al-Tuhaytah area, raising close to 7.5 million riyals ($30,000) in money and in-kind donations from merchants and individuals, she said.

After surveying the targeted area and identifying and vetting potential aid recipients, those in genuine need of assistance were issued with cards that enabled them to claim the aid the following day, she said.

"We provided medical aid and treatment to the medical and surgery camp in Zabid, which performs eye surgery and provides full medical care," she added.

The officials in charge of the camp had reached out to the organisation, asking for medicine and other medical needs, Abu Asba said.

The response was excellent from a number of pharmaceutical companies, she added.

"We were amazed by the strong response by all the charitable people in this country to aid the people of al-Hodeida," she said.

Fishermen suffer

Al-Hodeida human rights and social activist Hayat Hikmi, who took part in Yemen's National Dialogue Conference, said she contributed to a number of charitable initiatives to assist the people of al-Hodeida.

"In the beginning, I worked with al-Salam organisation in Ibb province, which arranged a convoy for al-Tuhaytah area," she told Al-Mashareq. "We distributed the aid in two villages in the directorate."

"Then I participated in an aid convoy to Ibb province, where we distributed food baskets to other villages in al-Tuhaytah," she said, adding that she also volunteered to distribute water tanks to villages.

Hikmi described the humanitarian situation as "difficult" as a result of the dire economic situation.

"The majority of citizens are dependent on fishing, and their equipment and boats are now idle, because the fishing profession does not cover [operating] costs due to high prices of diesel fuel used to operate those boats," she said.

Previous assistance targeted the coastal areas, she said, while the inland areas are still in need of food aid as residents are dependent on seasonal agriculture and rainfall.

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I’m from Morocco. I hope that the war will end in dear Yemen!

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