Three-day drive to raise aid for people of Yemen

The comprehensive food security survey also revealed that almost one million children were suffering from acute malnutrition.

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DUBAI // UAE charity organisations will launch a three-day intensive fund-raising campaign across the country next weekend in a bid to help the people of Yemen who are suffering from a chronic shortage of food.

The campaign follows a directive from the President, Sheikh Khalifa, on Wednesday night to address the growing humanitarian crisis in one of the poorest Arab countries.

"Food is the need of the hour," Ahmed Al Mazroui, chairman of the UAE Red Crescent Authority (RCA), said yesterday. "The situation is getting worse. It is time we considered this a humanitarian crisis."

His comments come two weeks after the UAE gave a Dh500 million grant to the country and a month after a World Food Programme survey revealed that 44.5 per cent of the 10 million people in Yemen were suffering from food shortages.

The comprehensive food security survey also revealed that almost one million children were suffering from acute malnutrition.

Mr Al Mazroui said: "There is a call from the Red Cross and Red Crescent to see what national societies can do ... now we are finalising the details. Our delegation will move very quickly."

Yesterday, relief agencies including the RCA, which will spearhead the campaign, were working on the details of the drive.

The campaign will see telethons, collection points in different malls and all the branches of the RCA working round the clock to raise mostly money and food.

"There will be over 200 places for collecting donations ... people can donate through SMS. Our representatives will be all over the UAE. Each emirate will have a focal collection point," Mr Al Mazroui said.

Strategic points include Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi, Dubai Mall, Al Jimi Mall in Al Ain and Sahara centre in Sharjah. Officials are finalising locations in Fujairah, Ras Al Khaimah, Umm Al Quwain and Ajman.

Several UAE agencies including the RCA have been working in Yemen for the past several years. For instance, the Khalifa bin Zayed Humanitarian Foundation has been on the field distributing essentials.

"Our team is already there," said Mohammed Haji Al Khouri, the foundation's director general."They have been distributing food."

Yemen was the third-largest recipient of aid from the UAE in 2010. According to the Office for the Coordination of Foreign Aid (Ocfa), the country disbursed Dh275.9 million and committed a further 0.8 million.

"Almost 80 per cent of the funds went to development, predominantly focused on infrastructure development for the construction of Khalifa City for people affected by the floods," said the Ocfa report.

Education, social infrastructure, water and sanitation were other sectors that also received large amounts of assistance.

Charity organisations hoped that donors would respond generously by donating cash and food that would help alleviate the severe shortage faced by Yemenis.

"It is all up to our donors. It depends on them," said Mr Al Mazroui. He hoped volunteers from all walks of life, including college students, would join the effort.

The UAE Red Crescent can be contacted on 800-733.