Some local organisations are still operating networks to help people cope with the war. Image credit: Al-Shefa’a Foundation for Social Development

There is a group of extraordinary young men and women in northern Yemen
There is a group of extraordinary young men and women in northern Yemen. They are in very isolated, tribal areas, in Saadah Governorate. A few years back, before the current war started, they decided to serve their community, and established Al-Shefa’a Foundation for Social Development. The area was undeveloped and lacking many basic services and infrastructure.

“We have been suffering from so many things, from education to basic health services. Haydan was my home and we want to help our people. We thought to reach out to international programmes and projects working in Yemen,” says Ali Al-Qatabri from Al-Shefa’a Foundation.

The organisation began with small initiatives, self-funded by the group and the community. Later, they managed to obtain some funding from the Canada Fund for Local Initiatives, to equip a hospital in Haydan district.

“Unfortunately, in the current war the Saudi-led coalition has been bombing everything in our area. Haydan Hospital was destroyed by airstrikes, targeted again and again and again.”

Qatabri says that their main office in Saadah City was destroyed, with the coalition airstrikes targeting the whole city. “Everything was destroyed in Saadah – the City of Peace, as Yemenis called it. Till this day civilians are still targeted and killed. We don’t know why they have been targeting public infrastructure and offices. Even mosques, schools and bridges have been deliberately targeted, again and again and again.”

Endless crisis

This month, the war in Yemen entered its third year since the Saudi-led Arab Coalition, backed mainly by the US and UK, started their campaign in March 2015. Thousands of Yemenis have been killed and many more have been injured.

Up to four million people have been internally displaced. Massive destruction of infrastructure and public services has been caused by the war, and endless documented war crimes have been committed.

The siege and blocking that Yemen is under, especially the northern and midlands governorates, might soon cause widespread famine. “The conflict in Yemen is now the primary driver of the largest food security emergency in the world,” said the Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien in his last briefing to the UN Security Council. The economic and financial crisis in the country is making this even worse for Yemenis.

Working to serve their people

This is our home, this is our land, these are our people, and they need us badly. We will continue to do our best
However, this has not stopped the young men and women from Saadah continuing their humanitarian and relief work, regardless of the cruelty and harshness of war. They have been working to improve education services, enhance health provisions, deliver landmine and cluster bombs awareness, and build the capacity of NGO staff. In addition, they have created voluntary networks to support communities. In particular, they are helping children who are facing psychological problems because of the war and its destruction, killings and air strikes.

They have also managed to reach out, coordinate and cooperate with many international NGOs, UN agencies, local charities, and local community organisations, such as the Yemen Center for Human Rights and Raeduun for Sustainable Development.

“This is our home, this is our land, these are our people, and they need us badly. We will continue to do our best to serve and deliver, regardless of the hardship,” concludes Ali Al Qatabri from Al-Shefa’a Foundation.

Peace is the best answer. But will it come? 

UN peace efforts have not been successful so far, and are not expected to be any time soon. The Saudi-Led coalition and its western allies still seem determined not to end this war. The warring parties inside Yemen think they have the right to defend themselves. The Southerners are demanding their independence. And the Yemeni people are caught in between.

In the absence of reconciliation and political agreement, the common Yemeni people are the ones that are being damaged most, as two thirds of the Yemeni population – 19 million people – are in need of some kind of food, healthcare or other assistance.

The best humanitarian relief for Yemen is peace. But with so many regional and international stakeholders, there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Peacewatch is published by Peace Direct to highlight local peacebuilding initiatives in conflict zones. Please note that the views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of Peace Direct. Follow the links below for background information on the events discussed in this article: 

Amnesty International 

European Council on Foreign Relations 

Foreign Policy

Human Rights Watch 

The Intercept 

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