Journalist Abdullah Ali interviews Yemenis on how social initiatives are contributing to the alleviation of the suffering of Yemen during Ramadan

Under the weight of the Ramadan night and during the day, Youssef Mahdi, 38, travels with a group of young people between the homes of poor families in the countryside of central Yemen. Their mission is to provide the families with Ramadan staples to ease their daily suffering. His efforts are just one of the actions they have taken as a result of the ongoing war.

Before Ramadan began, Al-Mahdi began collecting money from businessmen, buying dates and distributing them to poor families in Ibb Governorate, which is under the control of the Houthis. The Houthis are named after their former leader Hussein Badreddin al-Houthi, a member of the Yemeni parliament for the Al-Haqq party between 1993 and 1997 before his assassination in 2004.

During the past few months, Yemen has witnessed a significant escalation in air strikes, bombing and ground fighting between the parties to the conflict. On one side the Houthis are trying to occupy the city of Marib, the last stronghold of the internationally recognised Yemeni government in North Yemen. So far they have failed to enter the city due to government forces and were subjected to air strikes from the planes of the other side, the Saudi-led Arab coalition in Yemen.

With the advent of the month of Ramadan, the parties to the conflict in Yemen agreed on a humanitarian truce that will last for nearly two months, starting on April 2 and ending on June 2. There’s a possibility it will be extended.

Yemeni economist Rashid Al-Haddad says: “The level of cooperation between individuals and community initiatives grows significantly during the month of Ramadan, a feature that has distinguished Yemenis for decades, pointing out that self-initiatives are part of the social fabric in Yemen, and contribute to alleviating the suffering of the poor and needy in  various fields. governorates of Yemen.”

Mahdi told Media Diversified, that he was able to obtain dates for about 700 poor families in Ibb governorate during the first days of Ramadan, noting that most families are unable to buy dates due to the high prices in the market and the deterioration of living standards of Yemini citizens.

With the beginning of the month of Ramadan in Yemen, social solidarity and cooperation are increasing significantly among the population. Charitable projects and youth social initiatives are on the rise, and this is positively reflected in the lives of many Yemenis who find themselves unable to help themselves anymore. And thus it is civil society that is providing the most basic of needs.

Community Initiatives

It is difficult to know how many community initiatives are operating during Ramadan in Yemen, but Yemeni economist Rashid Al-Haddad says: “Social solidarity played a key role in stopping the collapse of humanitarian conditions during the years of war in Yemen.”

During the course of the war community initiatives have emerged in Yemeni governorates such as Sana’a, Ibb, Taiz, Aden and other governorates.

Voluntary Values ​​Initiative, southwest of Taiz city are working to distribute humanitarian aid to poor families and displaced people during the month of Ramadan. This initiative was established on December 5, 2018, and it consists of eight main members, and about twenty=six volunteers who distribute food aid on a daily basis.

“During the past year, they were able to distribute more than 20,000 meals during the month of Ramadan, and this year they are distributing aid since the beginning of the month of Ramadan,” said Helmy Al-Maliki, the trustee’s official.

This year’s team initiative is the ‘fasting project’, providing an integrated meal consisting of rice, chicken, water, bread, yogurt and dates, which is wrapped and distributed to poor families in the city of Taiz.

According to Al-Maliki, “more than 250 families receive a meal on a daily basis, noting that there are difficulties they face during the distribution of aid, most notably the lack of financial support, in addition to the high prices of food commodities, the collapse of the local currency exchange rate against foreign currencies and the difficulty of accessing services.” . . for the city. “Because of the Houthi group’s closure of the main roads.”

Mahmoud El-Dabai, 50, works for a daily wage and supports six children. He lives with his family in the city of Taiz, southwest of Yemen. He is one of the beneficiaries of the meals and says that the breakfast he receives alleviated his suffering in light of the lack of job opportunities and the high prices of food commodities.

Al-Dabai says: “We live in Ramadan this year in a state of confusion. We are stuck at home. We can’t go out to the markets to buy basic necessities, because we lack money in our pockets, and we don’t even have transportation costs under the siege imposed on us for years.”

The Houthis have imposed a stifling siege on the city of Taiz since 2016, and the city’s residents live in harsh conditions and have suffered great difficulties transporting foodstuffs to the besieged city for the last seven years.

The suffering of the citizens

Muhammad Naji, 40, a government employee in the education sector in Sana’a, which is also  under the control of the Houthis, lives in harsh living conditions. He too was unable to purchase all basic services during Ramadan, due to the high prices of consumer goods and services and the interruption of his government salary since September 2016.

Nearly half a million government employees have lived in Sana’a and the rest of the Houthi-controlled areas without salaries since September 2016. They like hundreds of thousands of citizens live below the poverty line, amid harsh conditions in a devastating war that ravaged the country for over eight years. .

In September 2016, the Houthis stopped paying the salaries of government employees in its areas of control, following the decision of the internationally recognized government to transfer the Central Bank from Sana’a to the city of Aden in southern Yemen.

Naji told Media Diversified: “We received Ramadan this year amid harsh conditions, and we were barely able to obtain basic services, noting that the interruption of his government salary forced him to austerity, and to give up buying luxury things such as meat of all kinds.”

Naji refers to the community initiatives during the month of Ramadan, and their role in alleviating the suffering of citizens, as he says that he received some humanitarian aid such as sugar, flour and dates from one of the community initiatives operating in Sana’a, indicating that this alleviated the suffering in light of the high prices of food commodities.”.

The prices of consumer goods and services in Yemen have witnessed an unprecedented rise compared to the past months, especially the most used needs during the month of Ramadan, in addition to the rise in basic commodities: wheat, flour, sugar and oils whose prices are high. It increased by a large percentage compared to previous years, and this negatively reflected on the lives of the population living below the poverty.

Yemeni economist Al-Haddad believes that: “The recent rise in prices, coinciding with the advent of Ramadan, has doubled the suffering of Yemenis, as a result of the continuation of the war, as well as the impact of the Russian-Ukrainian war, in addition to the impact of the fuel crisis, which led to an increase in the cost of transporting commercial trucks, and the closure of most roads“.

Al-Haddad told Media Diversified: “Ramadan is an annual consumption season in Yemen, but this year the level of people’s demand for Ramadan needs in the markets decreased as a result of the decline in their financial capabilities, and this is an indication that the living conditions of Yemenis have reached dangerous levels.”

Deteriorating economic conditions

Yemen is witnessing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with the latest estimates indicating that about 50,000 people are currently living in famine-like conditions, and hunger is intensifying in conflict-affected areas, and nearly 21 million people need, or more than 66% of the total  Population, humanitarian aid and protection.

During the past few years, the war in Yemen has caused the destruction of the country’s infrastructure and national economy, as the local currency witnessed a decline and reached its lowest level compared to foreign exchange rates, in addition to the monetary split between the Sana’a Bank of the non-recognized Houthi authorities and the Bank of Aden affiliated with  the internationally recognized government.

The collapse of the local currency led to a rise in the prices of food commodities, which negatively affected the lives of citizens and exacerbated their daily suffering, especially those with low incomes of workers and farmers, as well as government employees whose salaries were cut off in Houthi-controlled areas since September 2016 until now.

Nadia Mahmoud, 40 is a mother of six children, living in the city of Ibb in central Yemen. Her husband works for the daily wage. She believes that Ramadan this year is more difficult than previous years.

Nadia says that: “Securing breakfast is not an easy task, pointing out that it has become an expensive hardship”. Especially since the prices of Ramadan dishes requirements are rising in an upward trend.

Al-Haddad told Media Diversified: “The war, and the siege imposed on Yemen, by the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia has led to the division of financial institutions, and caused the suspension of the salaries of about 750,000 government employees, and nearly 3 million Yemeni workers lost their job opportunities as a result of the war and the cessation of investments. both foreign and domestic in the country.”

According to Al-Haddad, “This has exacerbated the suffering of Yemenis and the deterioration of the middle class in the country, pointing out that the suffering is great and tragic, and has recently doubled with the decline of the humanitarian role of the United Nations due to the decline in donor support.”

While Al-Haddad praised the efforts made by community initiatives to support the poor and alleviate their suffering, it clearly isn’t enough if Yeminis who haven’t been killed by British and American made Saudi bombs are to survive the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and its resulting punishing economic conditions.

Abdullah Ali is an independent Yemeni journalist whose work, mostly focusing on humanitarian issues, is published in regional and international outlets. Find him on twitter @abd390477619

If you enjoyed reading this article and you got some benefit or insight from reading it buy a gift card or donate to keep Media Diversified’s website online

Or visit our bookstore on Shopify – you can donate there too! We are 100% reader funded

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.