Time to refocus on reconstruction in Sa’ada

Published on 5 March 2012 in Report
Nadia Al-Sakkaf (author)

Nadia Al-Sakkaf

Around 2,000 people have been left disabled, with landmines left behind from the Sa’ada wars a primary cause.

Around 2,000 people have been left disabled, with landmines left behind from the Sa’ada wars a primary cause.

Since the Sa’ada Reconstruction Fund (SRF) was established in July 2007, its 37 staff members have been working hard to get the job done. According to the head of SRF, Mohammed Thabit, it needs more dedication and more money.

The fund operates in Sa’ada, Amran and Sana’a governorates where the impact of the six wars between the Houthis and the state army has been felt. The fund has already used the YR 4 billion allocated to them from Yemen’s Finance Ministry. There is a dire need for more funds, as according to Thabit, there is need for at least YR 60 billion to achieve the reconstruction tasks.

“The international community showed interest in supporting the reconstruction, but then due to the instability all discussions to this end stopped. Now there is peace and stability and we should be launching into a vigorous reconstruction phase,” said Thabit. “We hope they [donors] will contribute promptly to the fund.”

Assessment and recovery

The work of the fund is basically split into two phases, the assessment of damage and reconstruction work. So far almost 90 percent of the assessment has been completed in Sa’ada governorate, 100 percent of the assessment is complete in Bani Hushaish in Sana’a, however Harf Sufian in Amran remains a no-go area due to security reasons.

In Amran, the assessment could not be completed as there is on-going armed conflict today. So far the fund has identified 912 reconstruction projects, including 883 homes and 29 public facilities. Unfortunately, no reconstruction has yet been possible in that governorate.

The most successful achievement of the fund so far is Bani Hushaish, where around 93 percent of the reconstruction has already been completed.

Most of the damaged 380 homes and six public institutions were repaired or rebuilt from scratch. There are no internally displaced persons there anymore and life, according to the locals themselves, has almost returned to normal.

Yet, Sa’ada governorate where the bulk of the damage happened is a different story.

The actual work which started in Jan. 2008, has been periodically disturbed due to resurgent conflict in the area.

As to end of 2011, the assessment in Sa’ada governorate showed that there were 16,620 homes and institutions destroyed. Of the 12,521 proper homes and 853 temporary homes (such as huts and shacks mainly near the coastal region of Tihama) damaged, only 2,742 were repaired and a little under 800 being repaired.

The conflict also affected 2,313 farms, with 178 now restored and 122 farm restoration projects ongoing.

The assessment revealed damage to 679 public institutions including: 446 places of prayer, 145 schools, 22 health facilities, ten security buildings, four courts, four government compounds, three agricultural centers and 45 general public facilities such as electricity and water stations.

Repairs on only 101 of these are complete and two projects in this category are on-going. Moreover, there are 245 income revenue projects such as shops and other economic institutions that were damaged.

Ending the displacement phase

“It is time for the hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons of the Sa’ada war to return home,” said Ali Hassan, an IDP in Sa’ada from Khawlan. He has been waiting there for three years with his wife and old mother.

“I want to return home. All I need is help to get my life back.”

The SRF mechanism works with the owners of homes in a partnership whereby they are given finances in four installments and technical support to rebuild their homes or farms. However, due to the severe shortage in funding, many of the IDPs remain homeless.

“The displacement phase is done, now instead of helping them [IDPs] to settle in camps, we should encourage them to go back to their homes and provide them with sources of income,” insisted Thabit.

However, the impact of war obviously has not only affected buildings and infrastructure. In fact, it has had a deeper impact on the people, whether physically or emotionally.

According to Abdulaziz Hanash, a coordinator of the landmine victims in Sa’ada, there are over 2,000 men, women and children who had been handicapped because of landmines and unexploded remnants of the four-year armed conflict in Sa’ada.

“No one talks about these victims,” he said. “There are bitter sentiments, reserved for all political parties involved in the violence. There are many people who not only lost their homes, jobs or members of their family, but also a limb or an ability.”

Adel Al-Jailani, director of the Sa’ada branch of the Sa’ada Reconstruction Fund agrees.

“There is just so much to be done,” he said. “We need all the support we can get.”