Yemeni families wearied by war and facing a humanitarian crisis can at least be thankful that this Eid Al Adha will be one with food on the table and gifts for children.
Those in the 80 per cent of the country - 11 provinces - liberated by the Saudi-led coalition fighting to restore Yemen’s legitimate government are to benefit from a new drive by the Emirates Red Crescent to ensure they are well looked after during Eid celebrations at the end of this month.
In addition to more than Dh7.5 billion spent by UAE organisations on relief and development projects in the country over the past two years, families are to benefit from the “Zayed’s legacy for the people of Yemen” initiative, which was launched on Wednesday with the aim of spreading joy among families of the wounded and martyred.
“Sheikh Zayed has built many things in Yemen, like a bridge, houses, hospitals since 1970, and his sons will continue the same projects,” said Mohammed Al Falahi, chairman of the ERC.
“So now those families who lost their fathers in the war, we want to share some joy with them as we shared their sorrows.”
The charity would not specify how much money it intends to spend or how many families will benefit but said they are aiming to deliver meat, toys, clothes, money and shopping coupons to families in each of the 11 provinces liberated from Houthi rebel control.
“There are teams on the ground in Ma’reb, Hadramout and Aden who are studying the areas’ needs,” said Mr Al Falahi.
“Their job becomes more challenging by the day, whether in terms of logistics or Houthi militias and extremists trying their best to destroy the coalition’s efforts to create stability and security.
“But, of course, this has not stopped us; the more challenging it becomes, the more determined we are to aid.”
Across the 11 provinces the UAE has already rebuilt more than 300 schools, in addition to renovating and equipping more than eight big hospitals and hundreds of clinics.
In Aden alone, 100 houses have been rebuilt and, in Socotra, the ERC is working on a massive project that will involve residential compounds, hospitals and schools. So far 350 houses have been delivered.
“Whenever a province was liberated, humanitarian efforts followed to aid the people,” said Mr Al Falahi.
“The minute Aden was liberated, the UAE teams rushed to aid and rebuild on the same day.”
Fahad Bin Sultan, deputy secretary general for fundraising and marketing at ERC, said the primary focus after liberation is health and education.
“Of course, the circumstances of Yemen are a bit different so we are working on special programmes that involve orphans, mothers and child development... supporting students and universities in terms of maintenance and providing dormitories, required tools and equipment,” he said. “We want Yemen to return better than it was.”
The UAE has so far only been able to provide comprehensive assistance in the 11 liberated provinces.
“The situation on the ground is stable and we haven’t faced any problems there [in these provinces]. People came out of the blockade eager to cooperate with us,” added Mr Bin Sultan.
“We received hundreds of volunteers who worked with us for free. They could not wait to get out of the starvation, blockade and chaos to rebuild and rehabilitate schools.”
For those areas yet to be freed, the ERC has still been sending medical assistance through international organisations.
“We have been receiving many requests for assistance from inside Sanaa but we cannot deliver the aid; when we reach the checkpoint, we are rejected,” Mr Bin Sultan said.
“The solution for them is to either move to the liberated areas or rely on the aid of international organisations.”
Mr Al Falahi added that he was confident that people in the UAE will again dig deep to support the initiative. So far, people in the UAE have donated Dh1.4 billion since April 2015 until the end of June towards ERC projects in Yemen.
“This figure came solely from people’s support, not from the rulers,” he said.
At least 4,000 civilians have been killed and more than 7,000 injured in the war in Yemen.