Yemenis reach out to needy during Ramadan

By Faisal Darem in Sanaa

Yemenis collect food and bread to distribute to the needy during Ramadan inside al-Taqwa mosque in Shamlan district. [Photo courtesy of Abdallah Abdel-Ilah]

Yemenis collect food and bread to distribute to the needy during Ramadan inside al-Taqwa mosque in Shamlan district. [Photo courtesy of Abdallah Abdel-Ilah]

A number of Yemenis have launched individual initiatives to aid internally displaced persons (IDPs), the country's poor, and those affected by the ongoing war during the holy month of Ramadan.

To help those in need, social activists have been leveraging their personal networks to collect money and food and distribute it to the needy in the districts where they live.

These initiatives are most active in neighbourhoods where the majority of residents are poor and in those that are hosting a large displaced population.

In the Shamlan district of Sanaa province, al-Taqwa mosque has been providing ready-made food to the poor and the displaced, activist Abdallah Abdel-Ilah told Al-Mashareq.

"The mosque’s imam called on worshipers to donate money towards the provision of food to the poor and needy, and IDPs in particular, since they came from other provinces and lack the most basic means of subsistence," he said.

"The call from the mosque's imam was met with great co-operation by the residents of the neighbourhood who can afford to donate, and many youth who are able to execute the initiative," he said.

At the beginning of Ramadan, the initiative began providing ready-made food to 300 families, but as the holy month progressed, it was providing meals to 1,100 families, or about 6,000 people on average, he said.

Families were issued with cards listing the number of people in their household, enabling them to receive a "ration of food sufficient for their families", Abdel-Ilah said.

During Ramadan, he noted, there has been a heightened sense of solidarity and compassion between people, and among the rich and the poor.

'The spread of poverty is evident'

Businessman Mohsen Saree told Al-Mashareq he has sponsored the Al-Rahma (Mercy) initiative in Sanaa's Dhabwa district, where he lives.

"The district of Dhabwa is located on the southern outskirts of the capital, Sanaa, and consists of low-income neighbourhoods that also host IDPs from outside Sanaa province," he said.

"The spread of poverty is evident, and this compelled me to work on raising funds from my friends and acquaintances inside Yemen and expatriates," he said.

As a result of these efforts, he was able to put together 110 food baskets, each worth 15,000 Yemeni riyals ($60), he said.

With help from neighbourhood leaders and area residents, Saree identified the neediest families hosting displaced persons, who were poor to begin with, and displaced families who were destitute.

The food baskets were distributed using "food cards made for this purpose", he said, which were given to the intended recipients, who could use them to obtain their pre-paid food rations from local merchants.

Each food basket includes 10 kilogrammes of sugar, a similar amount of rice, a 10-litre bottle of oil and a 25-kilogramme bag of flour, he said.

"The distribution of food to the targeted families was completed by the advent of the month of Ramadan, during which solidarity and co-operation among members of the community reach their highest levels," he said.

The Taawon (Co-operation) initiative launched by Khaled Hizam, a former public relations manager at a government agency, aims to provide food to 400 poor and displaced families in central Sanaa.

Hizam told Al-Mashareq he also plans to provide Eid clothes to 300 orphans.

To offer assistance to those in need, he said, he relies on a broad network of colleagues in the commercial and banking sectors to supply the quantities required for the initiative’s food baskets.

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