Family ties bind Oman and Yemen across border

Relatives and clan members in Salalah reach out to suffering kin in Mukalla.

SALALAH, OMAN // During Ramadan last year, a few months after the outbreak of war in Yemen, Ameer Al Shanfari, an executive at a public insurance company in Salalah, called his cousin in Hadramawt to see how he and his family were faring amid the deepening crisis.

“I was shocked at how difficult he said it was,” Mr Al Shanfari says. “He said no one is supplying food and they could not buy oil for their generators” which not only keep the lights on but also run the bore wells that provide drinking water.

“So we thought that we should send them help,” he says. “We need to ease their situation.”

Like many of the tribes in eastern Yemen, the Al Kathiri tribe, of which the Al Shanfari are a sub-clan, straddles the border with Oman and many of its members have immediate family in both countries.

Hadramawt province, like most places in Yemen, suffered widespread hunger as food and other urgent humanitarian supplies dwindled due to the war and the rebels’ sieges of cities and villages.


READ: Oman faces delicate balancing act on the border with Yemen


Just as with other conflicts in the region, from Syria to Libya, in Yemen the bonds of family and tribe became more important as the state crumbled and war engulfed the country. For some, they have become a lifeline.

Mr Al Shanfari met with other members of his tribe in Salalah and elsewhere in Dhofar province and devised a plan to solicit donations via WhatsApp to buy basic food items such as flour, oil and rice, and to pay for medical care. Diseases rather than war injuries are the most pressing medical problem in Hadramawt, Mr Al Shanfari says.

As it was Ramadan, when people are encouraged to donate generously, Mr Al Shanfari was able to raise enough money to feed 20,000 families. The donations dropped after Ramadan but picked up again during the holy month this year, he said.

The money collected is given to a trusted cousin who takes it to Yemen where the food is purchased. The organisers of the donation drive are then given feedback by the families who receive assistance – they are asked to send photos that Mr Al Shanfari then forwards, via WhatsApp, to donors in Salalah.

“I think the need will go up now,” Mr Al Shanfari says, because imports of goods into Yemen through the port in Aden have again been hampered by the conflict.

Published: July 31, 2016 04:00 AM


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