Yemen Humanitarian Bulletin Issue 20 | As of 31 January 2017 [EN/AR]

HIGHLIGHTS

  • Livelihoods destroyed

  • 12 million targeted for assistance

  • Yemen Pooled Fund expands engagement with national partners

  • Over 1.3 million people in access restricted areas across Yemen

“I have nothing left to sell, except my soul.”

Airstrikes on Amran’s Cement Factory

What used to be a production site teeming with workers and the noise from cement machines is now almost abandoned. The state-run Amran Cement Plant used to produce 1.5 million tons of cement yearly and was the heart of the governorate’s economy and the pride of its inhabitants and its workers. It has been almost a year since a series of airstrikes hit the plant in 2016, badly damaging it and leaving its 1,529 employees out of work. Only a few of them have managed to find alternative employment.

Some 18 people were killed and 42 badly injured during the airstrikes. “The decision to stop the machines was not an easy one”, explains Yahya Ahmed Abuhalfah, chairman of the factory. The inability to rehabilitate the plant, cover loses, estimated at $100 million, and guarantee the safety of the employees forced managers to close and workers to stay home. “The plant was my second home”, says Abdullah Saleh Naif, 40 years old, “I was spending more time in the plant than in my house”. Abdullah also lost his son and coworker in the attacks. On top of this, he said, “My wife had gold, we sold it all. Today I have nothing left to sell, except my soul” he adds.

It is estimated that around 54,000 people, including employees, casual workers and residents were directly affected by the closure of the plant. This without counting the impact on the Al Barh Cement Factory in Taizz Governorate and the Bajil Cement Factory in Al Hudaydah Governorate, both heavily reliant on the Amran factory for raw materials and other inputs and now both shut down.

Abdullah Mohammed al-Haimi, in his late 50s, worked in the Amran plant all his life. For 35 years, he would wake up before sunset, pray, spend some time with his children and then go to work. “I can barely find food to put on the table for my family now”, he says.
The Amran factory used to also play a social and humanitarian role. “When the shortage of fuel started to occur in the country, the plant continued providing fuel to hospitals, private and public, and helped support water pumps”, says a former technical manager of the factory. Today, the administration can no longer afford any of their commitments to workers due to a great shortage of funds. In addition to their salaries, the employees are also no longer receiving their medical allocations, especially for chronic diseases such as diabetes or heart disease.

Mass unemployment crisis

Conflict and insecurity resulting in an economic breakdown across Yemen has seen over 70 per cent of small and medium enterprises lay off half of their workforce since the conflict escalated in March 2015. Some 65 per cent of fishermen have lost their job. The fight for influence over the Central Bank of Yemen, despite assurances by warring parties that it would be allowed to function outside of the conflict has caused a liquidity problem. It is causing 1.5 million civil servants to receive salary payments sporadically, every couple of months, and is affecting close to one third of the entire population across the country. Most have lost, not only, purchasing power for food, but also for other essential goods and services. The economy of Yemen, the poorest Arab country in the region, continues to collapse and the country remains in a mass and endemic unemployment crisis, with many of the middle class now being pushed below the poverty line

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