With Ramadan upon us, the YPP has launched its second annual Fast for Yemen campaign to raise funds for direct relief efforts and YPP operations. Last year, in the midst of Yemen's popular revolution, we used our Ramadan campaign to raise money for the field hospitals in Change Square in San‘a and Freedom Square in Ta‘iz, and for IDP camps in Khormaksar, ‘Aden. I don't recall exactly how much we brought in during the holy month, but between March and the end of 2011 we raised about $10,000 for those three causes from supporters all around the globe. It's not a lot by the standards of big-time NGOs, who can't do anything without several million dollars. But by delivering 100% of the cash raised directly to the hospitals and camps, we were able to make a real difference. More importantly, our efforts sent a message to our friends in Yemen, that someone out there in the wider world was paying attention, that they were not alone.
Though some progress has been made in the political arena since then, Yemen's massive humanitarian crisis has only grown. Today a record number of Yemenis face hunger or food insecurity. According to Oxfam, "some 10 million people – 44 percent of the population of Yemen – do not have enough food to eat. The UN estimates that 267,000 Yemeni children are facing life threatening levels of malnutrition." Take a moment to read that quote again. 44%.
This year we've decided to partner with a new, Yemeni-run organization, Hemmat Shabab. Hemmat Shabab's mission is to train and empower Yemenis to make a difference in their own communities, and to develop grass-roots, Yemeni solutions to Yemen's problems. Last month they launched their Ramadan food collection drive at an event hosted by Prime Minister Basundwah. Hemmat will follow their Ramadan campaign by opening Yemen's first public food banks. Food banks are a particularly effective tool in combating Yemen's current hunger crisis, because much of the problem stems from a crisis of affordability. That is, there is food in the markets, but many Yemenis can't afford to buy it. Many families have to choose between food and other necessities, like fuel, medicine, or water. In a recent article, Iona Craig tells of a village near Yemen's Red Sea coast that has had to abandon subsistence farming because they can't afford fuel to run their irrigation pumps. Food banks, along with cash transfers (as implemented by Oxfam and other large NGOs) and other means of direct assistance, significantly ease the burden on families and allow them to budget for other necessities.
In the first 24 hours of our campaign we've raised over $600. By the end of Ramadan we hope to have raised at least $3,000. I hope you'll join us this year in Fasting for Yemen, and I wish all the readers of this blog a blessed Ramadan.