Tag Archives: Yemen

More than 100 million at risk of starvation

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar - RTX2V8OJ

An internally displaced man looks at the carcasses of his goats and sheep in the outskirts of Dahar town of Puntland state in northeastern Somalia, December 15, 2016. REUTERS/Feisal Omar

By Umberto Bacchi
March, 2017

ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – The number of people facing severe hunger worldwide has surpassed 100 million and will grow if humanitarian aid is not paired with more support for farmers, a senior United Nations official said.

Dominique Burgeon, director of the emergency division at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said latest studies showed 102 million people faced acute malnutrition – meaning they were on the brink of starvation – in 2016, up almost 30 percent from 80 million in 2015.

The hike was mainly driven by deepening crises in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia, where conflict and drought have crippled food production, he said. [nL5N1FF5EX]

“Humanitarian assistance has kept many people alive so far but their food security situation has continued to deteriorate,” Burgeon told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an interview.

More investment is needed to help people feed themselves by farming crops and livestock, he added.

“We come with airplanes, we provide food assistance and we manage to keep them alive but we do not invest enough in the livelihood of these people,” he said.

“We avoid them falling into famine but we are not good at taking them off the cliff, away from food insecurity.”

The U.N. World Food Programme said last month more than 20 million people – greater than the population of Romania or Florida – risk dying from starvation within six months in four separate famines.

Wars in Yemen, northeastern Nigeria and South Sudan have devastated households and driven up prices, while a drought in east Africa has ruined the agricultural economy. [nL8N1G06JS]

Famine was formally declared in February in parts of South Sudan, which has been mired in civil war since 2013.

In northeastern Nigeria, once a breadbasket for the country, a seven-year insurgency by Boko Haram militants has uprooted some 1.8 million people, forcing many to abandon their farms.

The government says it has clawed back most of the territory it lost to the jihadist group and tens of thousands of refugees are hoping to return to their crops, although security remains a concern. [nL4N1G65JP]

Burgeon said the FAO had raised less than a third of the $20 million it needs within the next two weeks to support almost 2 million people in the upcoming planting season in Nigeria – an investment he said would save money in the future.

“If you don’t support those who want to return to their area to crop then you have to agree that you will have to provide massive aid assistance at least until the harvest in 2018, which is unbearable,” he said.

Lack of funding was also hampering the agency’s response in Syria, where food production dropped to an all-time low in 2016, Burgeon said. [nL8N1DG4UO]

“A lot is going to food assistance and barely anything is going to help farmers who have decided to stay on their land,” he said.

The soaring cost of seeds, fertilisers and tractor fuel was pushing many farmers to leave, making it more difficult to restart the economy once peace or stability returned, he added.

“What we need to do is to help them stay and crop their land and be there for the future,” Burgeon said. “To survive is not enough.”

Copyright Reuters 2017

(Reporting by Umberto Bacchi @UmbertoBacchi, Editing by Ros Russell.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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Mud, Water, Fire: Building Sanaa

Houses stand in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen July 12, 2016. Picture taken July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

Houses stand in the Old City of Sanaa, Yemen July 12, 2016. Picture taken July 12, 2016. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

By Mohamed al-Sayaghi
July, 2016

Traditional mud brick tower houses have always been a source of pride to Yemenis, and over a year into a devastating civil war, they are also providing some much-needed jobs in the ancient capital Sanaa.

At his traditional mud brick factory outside the city, Ali al-Sabahi oversees the process as it has was always been done, in happier days and now in dire ones.

Workers mix clay with straw, animal dung and water and leave this to dry in the sun for several days before settling it into square moulds.

After drying once more, they are loaded into the kiln to be fired. The burning period ranges between 15 and 20 days.

Yemen, a poor country awash with weapons where the rule of law is weak, is no stranger to conflict. But the war that erupted last year brought widespread destruction in Sanaa and beyond in air strikes led by Saudi Arabia.

The traditional houses of Sanaa, a UNESCO world heritage site said to have been founded by the son of Prophet Noah two and half millennia ago, have been spared – mostly.

Coalition air strikes killed at least six people and levelled several tower houses in the Qasimi quarter, one of the city’s oldest, in June.

The war has taken livelihoods as well as lives, but brickmaking is a rare bright spot in Yemen, which has been pushed into a humanitarian disaster by the civil war.

Working in a brick kiln in Sanaa, 25-year old Ibrahim al-Omari is able to support his parents and family with his wages.

“This work doesn’t need a certificate or qualification. It needs muscles to be able to work here,” he said.

“It’s the work we’ve inherited from past generations … I’ve been working here since I was 12.”

Despite the threat of destruction, a decades-long spread of concrete construction and tight wartime budgets, the appeal of the ancient art remains strong.

“The brick’s flexibility and ease to be customized for geometric shapes makes it attractive for customers for construction and decoration,” said brickmaker Mohammed al-Amari.

Through his efforts the city’s homes might yet maintain its distinctive beauty – its ochre walls glow amber and their whitewashed shining white at sunset – for generations.

The Wider Image: Mud, water, fire: building Sanaa

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

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Yemen yearns for peace

By Reuters
May, 2016

Abdussalam Hamad al-Harethi, 39 who sells antiques, souvenirs and silverware, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 21, 2016. "We are optimistic that we will see the Kuwait negotiations stop the war, especially in light of the decrease in the number of air strikes," al-Harethi said. Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Abdussalam Hamad al-Harethi, 39 who sells antiques, souvenirs and silverware, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 21, 2016. “We are optimistic that we will see the Kuwait negotiations stop the war, especially in light of the decrease in the number of air strikes,” al-Harethi said. Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Sanaa, Yemen (Reuters) — Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war.

Life was already a struggle for many residents of one of the Arab world’s poorest countries, but the onset of the conflict more than a year ago has made mere survival the priority and extreme hardship the norm.

The crump of air strikes, power outages and the deep-seated gnawing fear that their society may never emerge intact have all become part of daily life.

Hope is hard to find, and what little exists lies with the peace delegations representing the armed Houthi movement – which controls Sanaa – its allies, and their enemies in Yemen’s exiled, Saudi-backed government taking place in Kuwait.

Seemingly a world away in Sanaa, the ancient city whose old city is clustered with majestic mudbrick towers, the past looks brighter than the future.

But flickers of hope still shine among some Sanaa residents.

“We are optimistic that we will see the Kuwait negotiations stop the war, especially in light of the decrease in the number of air strikes,” said Abdussalam Hamad al-Harethi, 39, who sells antiques, souvenirs and silverware.

Less upbeat, Ahmed Hizam al-Soudi, 75, who sells traditional Yemeni curved daggers called jambiyas said he hoped wisdom would prevail among negotiating parties in Kuwait.

“We ask God to relieve us from this ordeal, which we were not expecting.”

“God willing, they would agree, because we are exhausted. And if they love the country, they will stop the war that brought devastation and destruction to the people of Yemen.”

The sentiment is widespread.

Muslih Ali Qaid, 59, a bookstore owner, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 29, 2016. "My message to the negotiators in Kuwait is: 'Don't give up the rights of the people who stood fast for a whole year, because there are deaths and injuries and complete destruction of the infrastructure.'" Qaid said. "I hope that the dialogue will succeed in rebuilding Yemen, there is no hope otherwise." Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Muslih Ali Qaid, 59, a bookstore owner, poses for a photograph in Sanaa, Yemen, April 29, 2016. “My message to the negotiators in Kuwait is: ‘Don’t give up the rights of the people who stood fast for a whole year, because there are deaths and injuries and complete destruction of the infrastructure.'” Qaid said. “I hope that the dialogue will succeed in rebuilding Yemen, there is no hope otherwise.” Anxiety reigns in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, where ordinary people await the outcome of almost a month of peace talks they hope can end a devastating war. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

Youth activists fed up by the deadly feud among Yemen’s political and military elites that has left 25 million citizens suffering the consequences have warned them on social media: “Don’t come back to Yemen unless with peace.”

Standing amidst her fresh-faced students, Yemen’s future, mathematics teacher Wafaa Mansour shared a view held by many – that the conflict has been infiltrated by so many foreign powers that only diplomatic intervention from the outside can help.

“If all sides do not make concessions, I do not think that there would be a proper solution without the intervention from one of the big states sponsoring the dialogue.”

In the maternity ward of a Sanaa hospital, 28-year old nurse Hindia Abdurabu al-Zubah looks after some of the country’s youngest and most vulnerable citizens and hopes the senior politicians in the land face up to the gravity of their task.

“I’m optimistic that the ongoing talks in Kuwait will unify us again and put an end to a year of war and conflict, and my message to them is: ‘Yemen is your responsibility,” she said.

 

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Facts and Opinions is a boutique journal of reporting and analysis in words and images, without borders. Independent, non-partisan and employee-owned, F&O is funded by our readers. It is ad-free and spam-free, and does not solicit donations from partisan organizations. To continue we require a minimum payment of .27 for one story, or a sustaining donation. Details here; donate below. Thanks for your interest and support.

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Arab Winter of Discontent Lingers

The so-called Arab Spring inflamed democratic imaginations even as activists, citizens, soldiers and rulers clashed violently throughout the region. More than three years after it began, writes international affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe, the democratic potential of the revolution has yet to be realized. An excerpt of Manthorpe’s new column:

Manthorpe B&WThree years after the flight into exile of Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali triggered popular uprisings across North Africa and the Middle East, there is little to show for the cost in blood and chaos … The picture is not all of doom and gloom, however. In all four countries where long-standing dictatorial regimes were toppled by the popular uprisings, the hammering out of new constitutions is in process, with elections in the offing.

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