Food4Humanity, our partner organization in Yemen, was recently profiled in an article in Forbes. Read below to learn more about their work and about the perspectives of their director Muna Luqman.
As the war in Yemen enters its sixth year, the spread of Covid-19 cases in many parts of Yemen plus the 1.2 million cases of cholera nationwide is alarming for an already exasperated healthcare system. With only half of the country's 3,500 medical facilities functioning, some 20 million Yemeni’s lack adequate healthcare and nearly 18 million don’t have access to clean water or proper sanitation.
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has identified Yemen among the 5 zones where the spread of Covid-19 will create a “double emergency.” And failure to contain the virus will “risk inestimable civilian suffering” says IRC's Yemen country director, Tamuna Sabadze.
“Our organization was the first to demand a ceasefire to ensure an emergency medical response to COVID 19 and cholera outbreak in Yemen–just before the UN General Secretary,” explains Muna Luqman, Executive Director of Food4Humanity Foundation, one of Yemen’s first women-led Civil Society Organization (CSO) non-profits founded in 2015. Luqman has directed support from diaspora Yemeni women and funding from MADRE global women's rights group, to fund training for 150 young medics in the southwestern city of Taiz. Another 50 medics are being trained in Sanaa (the capital) and Hudaida, Yemen’s fourth-largest city and principal port on the Red Sea. The International Civil Society Action Network (ICAN) supports the organization’s health and awareness campaign of youth-led initiatives.
The militant factions in Yemen’s prolonged war–from Houthi’s to Saudi’s, to Emirates to Iran–are each vying for control over southern seaports. The snippets of Yemen’s ongoing war scenes across TV screens don’t do justice to the catastrophic toll the war has had on the 29 million population in Middle East’s poorest country. Yemen is on the verge of destruction with:
- Death toll estimates of the war at over 200,000–85,000 from famine.
- Nearly 80 percent of the population need humanitarian assistance, including 2 million malnourished children of which 36,000 are under age 5 (UNICEF).
- Over 20 million Yemeni’s are food insecure.
- A 70 percent increase in gender-based violence (36% increased between 2016-2017).
- Some 4.3 million people displaced, nearly half are women–and 27 percent below age 18.
- Some 60 percent increase in child marriages due to extreme poverty.
Funding Livelihoods to Reverse Yemen’s Man-Made Famine
“With nearly $4 billion funneled into Yemen by the donor community and international aid organizations–we have a man-made famine created by corrupt organizations that threaten millions of Yemeni lives,” Luqman explains. “There is a lot of food in Yemen, but people don’t have the means to buy it.”
Since most Yemeni’s haven’t earned an income in over three years, Food4Humanity has spent nearly $20,000 to reinvigorate small-scale livelihoods, like street food vendors, by providing seed money to vendors.
The income allows the vendors to afford rent and basic needs and provides financial and psychological relief. To foster future generations of entrepreneurs, Food4Humanity is training young entrepreneurs to launch small-scale projects. The organization is working on a greenhouse pilot project to provide income for female farmers–each project will cost nearly $36,000.
Amidst such catastrophic disparity, it frustrates Luqman that self-appointed Houthi “supervisors” in Sanaa receive monthly wages from international organizations. Their lavish lifestyle of living in villas, taxing shop owners, and pocketing two percent of all the international aid entering Yemen–is a stark contrast to extreme poverty, famine and dissolved government-funded basic health and social services. With 90 percent of Yemen’s food imported, Houthi’s use millions of dollars in profits from seaport fees to militarize young boys. Meanwhile, the UN fails to fund local peace builders, and international aid organizations would only fund or work with local organizations with an annual budget of $200,000, says Luqman.
“Instead of collaborating with local women’s groups who are first responders and know where the humanitarian corridors are and can negotiate access, and know the real needs of the Yemeni population, the international organizations entering Yemen thought they knew better than us what Yemeni’s needed,” Luqman explains.
This led to international aid organizations partnering with “corrupt” local organizations whose mission didn’t align with the Yemeni’s welfare.