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Yemen: hopes for better amid volatile security situation

16 August 2012

Yemen: hopes for a better tomorrow amid volatile security situation

While relative calm prevails in the north, in Sa'ada and Amran governorates especially, the security situation in the south and centre remains volatile. Many formerly displaced people who have returned to their home areas need help rebuilding their lives. The ICRC is trying to give them a chance to fend for themselves.

Periodic attacks have claimed the lives of dozens of civilians over the past few weeks, mainly in Sana'a and Abyan governorates. Abyan has not yet recovered from the conflict and there is currently no prospect of an improvement in the security situation. "Internally displaced people are reluctant to return to their homes either because of the high level of destruction, as in Zanjibar for instance, or because they simply fear a resumption of the fighting," explained Eric Marclay, the head of the ICRC delegation in the country.

"In the north, the situation is different," said Mr Marclay. "After years of living in harsh conditions in camps in and around Sa'ada with nothing but ICRC-provided assistance, internally displaced people have started to return to their homes." The stable security situation has encouraged them to go back, but they still need an income to help them survive and feed their families.

"We were living a normal life as farmers in our village, but the war forced me to flee with my wife and seven children in search of peace and safety. We went to a camp for displaced people in Sa'ada and I really don't know what would have happened to us if we had not been given help and support," said Ali Mohammed. "Now we are going back home after four years of displacement. The ICRC provided me with a three-wheel taxi which enables me to earn a living and support my family."

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The ICRC's micro-economic initiative, launched in Sa'ada in May 2012, provides returnees not only with a four-month supply of food and with shelter materials and household essentials, but also with income-generating activities giving them financial stability and the ability to provide for their families.

"It was not easy at all to live in the camp. The ICRC saved us from those grim conditions," said Baqla'a, a 45-year-old mother who fled her damaged house with her children six years ago. The ICRC gave her supplies to rebuild her house and the items she needed to open a grocery store so she could support her children.

So far, around 4,200 people have received help of this kind from the ICRC and are already back in their home areas. Since 2007, the ICRC has provided more than 23,000 displaced people in 10 camps in and around Sa'ada town with food and other items as well as with potable water, shelter and sanitation.

Support for farmers in Amran governorate

Agriculture is the mainstay of Yemen’s economy, contributing on average 15 to 20 per cent of the country's GDP and employing more than half the working population. However, many environmental and political problems are hampering growth in this sector. The biggest problem by far is the scarcity of water. In Amran governorate, farming is the main source of income after livestock production. The governorate, which is considered agriculturally fertile, meets a major share of the country's agricultural needs. Most farmers in the governorate practise subsistence farming of maize, wheat, millet and vegetables. However, the series of conflicts in the area in recent years had a severe impact on the agricultural sector. Farmers were hard hit as the agricultural cycle was interrupted, inflation soared, and public services deteriorated and became unreliable.

With the aim of improving farming practices, the Yemeni government took the step some time ago of setting up agricultural research farms in different parts of the country. Al Asha farm in Amran governorate, for example, was set up in 1975 to introduce improved varieties of grains and fruits and to help local farmers adopt new technologies. Since 1986, Al Asha has been in decline, owing primarily to a lack of financial and technical support. In 2007, it was almost abandoned.

In May of this year, the ICRC and the Department of Agriculture launched a project to restore Al Asha farm in order to improve farmers' productivity and therefore their income. "This project will result in the production of improved-quality seeds that will be distributed or sold to other farming communities at subsidized rates," said Mustapha Ben Messaoud, the head of the ICRC sub-delegation in Amran. The ICRC is currently providing the seed and machinery needed to produce sorghum and millet on six of the farm's 20 hectares.

Assistance to other needy people

In addition to its income-generating projects in the north, the ICRC continued to provide assistance for civilians throughout the country. Over the past month, the ICRC:

• donated hygiene items to six health-care facilities in Arhab district for 2,500 children and 18,000 women of child-bearing age to raise awareness of the importance of immunization and prenatal care;
• provided emergency assistance for nearly 25,000 internally displaced and other needy people in Al Hosn and Baties, in Abyan governorate;
• supplied 148,500 litres of water every day to Sa'ada town residents, 44,000 litres a day to displaced people in Mandaba camp and 115,000 litres a day to over 1,200 displaced people and returnees in Al Harf town;
• provided the Sa'ada water supply system with 11,000 litres of fuel and repaired the network;
• made generators available so that water could be supplied to 120,000 people affected by the fighting in Ja'ar, Abyan governorate;
• donated and installed four submersible pumps in Taiz and provided spare parts;
• provided training in first aid for two groups of militants of Al Hirak Movement in Habel Jabr and Yahar as well as two groups of medical staff in the same southern districts;
• finalized repairs in water facilities of the Criminal Investigation Department and the Political Security detention places so that detainees would have fresh water on a daily basis;
• visited people held in various places of detention in Sana'a and Aden and arranged for video calls and phone calls to be made and for Red Cross messages to be exchanged between Yemeni families and their relatives detained abroad in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.

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