It's not so often in the media that we hear of the happenings in Yemen, but a lot is happening, a lot has happened. Since 2015 over 11,000 deaths have happened in Yemen. 2.2 million severely malnourished children stand to die in the coming months. Health facilities are almost non-existent. Whilst 80 percent of its population wait for aid to emerge through its blocked corridors, in the shadow of a dreadful famine.
Mona Relief is an organisation which started from a single tweet and for the past two years has fed almost 8 million people in Yemen. Mona is the name of the lady who donated the very first $1000 for the organisation to make their first delivery of food to internally displaced people in the area of Harf Sufiyan in Yemen. Mona's generosity and spirit for humanity was infectious; she conveyed a message of positivity and compassion. Upon recognising and appreciating her spirit, the organisation was named after her.
I spoke to Dr R S Karim, the co-founder of Mona Relief, he has worked for the UN for a number of years, and his team are currently on the ground in Yemen:
"For almost 24 months Yemen has burnt under a million different fires, and endures a million different humiliations. To please the ambitions of a powerful Oligarchy Yemen has been blockaded, and its people starved to death, Its hospitals, schools, bridges, places of worship, museums, historical landmarks, factories, fields, farms have been bombed, droned, shelled and burnt down" describes Dr Karim
Yemen has been torn apart, looted and pillaged. It has a population of 27.4 million out of which a total of 17.1 million people are now struggling to feed themselves with 7.3 million of those in need of emergency assistance. An assessment by the UN's agencies for food and for children, FAO and UNICEF, and the World Food Programme, found "unprecedented" levels of hunger with the number of people who could not be sure of having enough to eat is up by three million in seven months.
The UN recently launched a 2.1bn aid appeal amidst the blockade, however Dr Karim raises concerns on how this will take place, he says "The UN fell far short of its target, this new appeal for 2.1bn is still subjective as donations have just started coming in and there are no assurances that the appeal will be successful either"
The situation is dire, Dr Karim's team on the ground in Yemen report that the port of Al-Hudaydah is under a total blockade. The harbour cranes were bombed by the Saudis and four new mobile cranes brought by the World Food Program have not been allowed in and so they are currently waiting in a ship at sea. Keeping in mind that Saudi Arabia has so far bombed over 400 trucks carrying food, it is going to be vital that assurances and correct mechanisms are in place in order to ascertain uninterrupted flow of aid.
"90% of all the aid comes through the port of Al Hudaydah and transported further inland to different governorates. The roads have been bombed and are rendered useless, so that is another issue which will have to be sorted, in order to ensure a successful flow of aid delivery."
Dr Karim explains how despite such difficult conditions Mona Relief is able to assist in the region. They are a 100% volunteer organisation and all donations collected go towards providing critical aid to the people of Yemen.
"Mona Relief has the largest network of Volunteers in Northern Yemen, our network spans through the Governorates of Sa'ada, Marib, Sana'a, Hajjah, Amran, Al-Mahwit, Al-Hodeidah and beyond, We have solely relied on private donors, and of course this has meant that our means have been limited. But we believe that in time we will manage to raise a powerful organization. Our work is a work of collaboration and social cooperation. We help communities help themselves; we use communities to assist us in our efforts, allowing for our network of local volunteers to grow."
From the very beginning the organisation stood firm on its decision to stir free from politics, to ensure that their approach to humanitarian assistance will remain true to its goals: helping those in need regardless of their background, their ethnicity or faith.
"Mona Relief is the first and only organisation which delivers monthly aid to the community of 65 Yemenite Jewish Families and we also run an outreach program where our volunteers deliver aid house to house to the elderly and disabled, monthly food aid to a number of orphanages" he explains.
Mona Relief has also provided educational supplies, clothes, blankets and essentials to thousands of children and families. The organisation has certainly ignited a ray of hope in the lives of helpless Yemenis, but the brutal conflict continues as Dr Karim says "Unless a miracle happens unexpectedly, the chances of the conflict ending anytime soon are almost zero to none."
Sadly, Yemen seems be joining Syria, Rwanda, Srebrenica and Bosnia, along with other tragedies as defining a historical crisis that the world just watched and did nothing about. Let's not allow Yemen to become just another forgotten crisis; let's do what we can to help, just like Mona did.