Following the outbreak of the current civil war in 2014, Ameen Jubran was one of thousands of Yemenis who were forced by fighting to flee within the country’s borders. After escaping from his home, haunted by shelling, he became a key person for the thousands of internally displaced people who survive the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. His work was recognized this month with the Nansen Prize, the award from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
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His interest in humanitarian aid dates back to his years as a chemistry student at the University of Saada, where he saw the consequences of the eternal conflict in some of his classmates. They did not return home for vacations, they had difficulty contacting their families, and college fees could barely be paid. After assuming the position of head of the student union, Jubran decided to help them. He kept doing it until he found himself in the same situation.
It was in 2017 when, with a group of friends from the university and after having collaborated with other entities for years, Jubran founded the Jeel Albena Association, a non-profit organization that provides emergency services to displaced communities in the north of the country. To this day, it has provided a roof to sleep under 20,000 internally displaced persons and supported another 60,000. Jubran’s organization also has a skills development center and a school rehabilitation program.
“Yemenis for Yemenis”
“Our motto is from Yemenis for Yemenis,” Jubran tells elDiario.es from Sana’a in a videoconference, “more than 40% of our employees come from the displaced communities themselves.” The organization employs some 4,000 local families, who are often worse off than the internally displaced people they host in the Yemeni city of Hudaydah, in the collection and production of “Khazaf”, a natural material that comes from well-known local palm trees. as “Doum”.
The leaves or “Khazaf” are woven in layers and then laid over a shelter frame to make the huts. About 90% of the local workers employed by Jeel Albena to weave the “Khazaf” are women.
The outbreak of the pandemic increased the harsh humanitarian situation that the country had been experiencing for years. “COVID-19 has presented us with many challenges. It has increased the needs to which we can respond with the funds we have available. Having been displaced ourselves, we understand the challenges that displacement entails. The pandemic has impacted us a lot, already that did not allow us to respond to all the needs that we know. ”
No doses are reaching the northern areas of the country where he works, says Jubran. He himself has not been able to travel to the award ceremony because he was not vaccinated.
The Nansen Prize to Jeel Albena, UNHCR also aims to focus on a humanitarian crisis, the worst globally right now, to which the media and the international community “do not pay enough attention.” “Focusing on the political conflict and not the humanitarian situation is what has led Yemen to one of the worst humanitarian situations of our time. We hope that by winning this award we can shed light on what is happening,” says Jubran.
The director of the food agency of the UN warned two weeks ago that 16 million people in Yemen were at risk of starvation. “Seeing that the support we provide is really necessary is what basically motivates us to continue helping people in need, our families and neighbors,” says Jubran.
“We hope that the international community will help Yemen achieve peace by focusing on the humanitarian situation and ending the conflict. Yemen needs support in order to be self-reliant and thus stop relying on international assistance.”
A stagnant war
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014, when Houthi rebels took control of the capital, Sana’a, as well as much of the north of the country. The government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi had to flee to the south and subsequently to Saudi Arabia.
In March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition began a bombing campaign, supported by the United States, to try to restore Hadi to power.
The Houthis control a wide swath of Yemen and are supported by Iran, which Saudi Arabia considers its regional adversary, and have frequently responded to Saudi airstrikes by sending missiles across the border into Saudi territory.
Despite the air campaign and ground fighting, the war has come to a standstill, generating the worst humanitarian crisis in the world behind it. Since then, the United States has suspended its direct involvement in the conflict.
According to United Nations estimates, nearly a quarter of a million Yemenis have died in the conflict, and millions face acute hunger or starvation. About 80% of the roughly 30 million people in the country are in need of humanitarian aid.
Last March, Saudi Arabia proposed a peace offer to end the war, pledging to lift the air and sea blockade if the Houthi rebels agreed to a ceasefire.