The dates, destined for distribution among refugees from the Horn of Africa in southern Yemen, were officially handed over to WFP in a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters in Sana’a attended by officials from the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Finance in Riyadh and the Saudi Embassy in Sana’a.
“This is a timely donation, and WFP is grateful for this example of Saudi generosity,” said WFP Country Director Bishow Parajuli. “We’ll begin delivering these dates in June, on the eve of Ramadan, when thousands of poor, unfortunate people, far from their homes and seeking shelter in Yemen, could use whatever small measure of comfort we can provide.”
WFP will distribute the Saudi dates in monthly rations between June and December. Almost 20,000 refugees will eventually be reached, most of them located in and around the sprawling Kharaz Camp, isolated in the desert outside Aden in Lahj governorate.
In 2013, WFP is providing food assistance to a total of 70,000 refugees from the Horn of Africa. The budget for the operation is US$4 million, of which all but US$600,000 has been provided. Aside from Saudi Arabia, major donors to WFP’s refugee activities are Denmark and Switzerland.
The majority of refugees are scattered across urban centres in Yemen, with a particularly heavy concentration in the Al Basateen district of Aden. More than 20,000 are housed in remote Kharaz Camp, where there are few prospects of employment, leaving the camp dwellers almost entirely dependent on humanitarian assistance.
In previous years, most refugees were from Somalia. But recent trends have seen heavy increases of refugees from Eritrea and, especially, Ethiopia. Since the beginning of 2013, almost 30,000 people have landed on Yemen’s coast, 25,000 of them from Ethiopia.
Saudi Arabia has been a consistent contributor to WFP activities in Yemen. In 2012, the Kingdom contributed US$1.5 million to support WFP programmes, and this year the Saudis have donated US$5 million towards WFP’s Emergency Operation, a US$242 million programme that is the agency’s primary activity in Yemen in 2013. The operation is aimed at delivering food assistance to nearly 5 million people. As of mid-May, it still needed US$95 million to meet all of its objectives.
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