Chargé D’ Affaires visits USAID project site in Old City

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United States Chargé D’Affaires Elizabeth Richard visited a U.S.-funded project in the Old City today that is currently employing dozens of Old City residents to beautify their neighborhood. With Minister of Culture Dr. Abdullah Aawbal, she visited one site where workers employed through the project were removing construction waste and planting trees. They also visited a completed work site and viewed pictures of the site before work had begun. Richard commented on the incredible transformation that had taken place, and listened to residents who talked about how they had benefited from the project as well as workers who had received salaries for their work on the project.

The project, called the “Labor Intensive Rehabilitation” project, is supported by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Community Livelihoods Project (CLP). CLP, with the help of local NGO Together Stronger, has put to work an estimated 110 young men and women to clean up and beautify the Old City of Sana’a. In 2011, many parts of the Old City became dumpsites as a result of the interruption of services including waste removal. Some streets even became unpassable as a result, with mountains of garbage blocking the way, and in one instance, the community had to build a wall to prevent people from continuing to throw trash in that part of this legendary city. Rehabilitation activities started on December 10, 2011, and each day, workers employed by the project removed approximately 25 tons of trash from the streets, to the relief of 95,000 Old Sana’a residents and merchants who live and work in this legendary part of the city. Also, workers have removed 108 tons of construction waste that had piled up over the past year, repaired sidewalks and planted trees to beautify their very special community. The Old City residents hope that initiatives like these will help make Old Sana’a once again the thriving residential neighborhood and tourist destination that it once was.

The Old City of Sana’a is a UNESCO World Heritage site that must be protected, and this project is helping to achieve that by raising awareness of the importance of good stewardship, water conservation and the unique history of the neighborhood. It is also rehabilitating public gardens and teaching residents how to recycle wastewater and conserve energy. “We need donors to get behind more projects such as these to protect this beautiful place and also afford youth an opportunity to work,” noted Mohammed Abdulqader, head of Together Stronger.

With the ongoing economic crisis in Yemen affecting citizens throughout the country, the Labor Intensive Rehabilitation activities focus on providing short-term employment opportunities for previously unemployed residents, in partnership with the Ministry of Roads and Public Works, the Mayor’s Office, the City Council and the Ministry of Social Affairs. The $1.65 million project has already provided short-term labor for over 300 unemployed people during the first phase, to support urgently needed municipal trash clean up, sidewalk repair and tree planting beautification activities in Sana’a, Aden and Marib. Over 100 men and women will undertake similar activities in Taiz in the coming weeks. Many beneficiaries have called this project “a lifesaver,” coming at a time when work is difficult to find in the country as a result of the economic crisis.

But this project is just the beginning of a larger program of cooperation between the United States and the Yemeni people to help Yemenis achieve their dreams of a better Yemen in 2012. Following the success of the activities’ first phase in Sana’a, Aden, Marib and Taiz, USAID plans to expand the project in cooperation with the Social Fund for Development to 13 more sites across Sana’a, employing over 6,900 men and women in the next two months.

The United States will also be cooperating with Yemen on several other projects to help employ more Yemenis and improve access to water and food for millions. The United States is funding and organizing a project that will regularly provide drinking water to approximately 1.5 million residents of Sana’a through the provision of generators and pumps, and has also recently launched a home gardening and poultry production initiative in 12 governorates to help Yemenis earn income and improve their access to food at the same time.

At the end of their visit, Aawbal and Richard made short remarks. Richard said, “We are very happy to say that today is just the beginning, and we have a lot of plans moving forward to help Yemenis come out of this crisis and come to a better year.”