Middle East

Yemeni volunteers come to aid of beleaguered civilians

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Image caption One group has delivered food supplies to some 800 families in the hardest-hit areas

A five-day humanitarian ceasefire in Yemen ended on Sunday without any progress made towards resolving the conflict, leaving millions of people once again wondering whether they would receive desperately-needed supplies of food, water, medicine and fuel.

With Saudi-led coalition air strikes and fighting on the ground between Houthi rebels and pro-government militiamen preventing international humanitarian organisations from reaching some of the hardest-hit areas, some Yemenis have stepped in to help.

Umm Mundhar, 40, worked as a primary school teacher before the Saudi-led air campaign began in late March.

Her monthly salary combined with that of her husband, who also worked in the education sector, came to 100,000 Yemeni rials ($465; £300).

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Image caption People face difficult times as the conflict has made even basic supplies scarce

Like many Yemeni professionals, the couple have not received their salaries in the past two months.

They have been struggling with the daily cost of living in a country where food, electricity, fuel and water are increasingly scarce, and have also faced the challenge of being among the more than 500,000 people displaced by the conflict.

'New Poor'

Umm Mundhar spoke to the BBC from the home of a relative in a suburb outside Aden where she and 18 members of her extended family are now living.

They fled from their homes when the clashes in the southern port city between Houthi rebels and local militiamen intensified.

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Image caption Grassroots initiatives have bolstered efforts by international aid agencies

"I always thank God because we're better off than so many others," she said. "But before the war, even though we would feel the pinch at the end of the month, we had enough to support ourselves and our children. Now our lives have turned upside down."

She said that before the crisis began, her brother had travelled to India on a regular basis to receive treatment for leukaemia.

Having finished the last of his medication, panic has set in about how to obtain more.

Although their brother in the capital Sanaa managed to find a chemist stocking the medicine, and paid 300,000 rials for a month's supply, they have not found a way of getting it to Aden.

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Image caption Mohammed al-Asaadi is approaching local businesses who may be able to donate

Sanaa-based media and communication expert Mohammed al-Asaadi has coined the term "The New Poor" to describe Yemenis like Umm Mundhar, who have found themselves suddenly without regular incomes in what was already one of the poorest countries in the Arab world.

Mr Asaadi said he had noticed that many businesses and schools had been forced to close in recent months as the conflict spread across Yemen, leaving their employees out of pocket.

He paid for food baskets for 15 families, and he and two friends also funded medical operations for two children whose families could not afford them.

Grassroots initiatives

Mr Asaadi is also supporting a grassroots initiative that was started in Aden - scene of some of the fiercest clashes in recent weeks - when local hospitals ran out of equipment to test donated blood.

After being contacted by the communications officer for a development agency in Sanaa, Faiza al-Sulimani, Mr Asaadi and his colleagues arranged to get the blood-testing equipment to Aden.

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Image caption The volunteers are risking their lives to make deliveries

From there, the idea grew and the grassroots initiative, Takaful Insan, now has a team of 20 volunteers funded by themselves, their friends and families.

"Our aim is to help the people that government agencies and NGOs have been unable to reach," Ms Sulimani told the BBC.

The team has managed to deliver food baskets to more than 800 families in areas worst hit by the violence, including Aden, Taiz and Lahj provinces.

They have also run a training programme teaching some 300 youths first aid, as well as how to be tolerant citizens and avoid political and sectarian conflict.

With aid workers having been killed by snipers in Aden, volunteers are risking their lives to make deliveries.

Some have been detained by Houthi fighters, who accused them of providing food and arms to the resistance before eventually releasing them.

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Image caption Donkeys have proved a valuable asset in in reaching the most cut-off areas

The volunteers have often found themselves relying on sheer resourcefulness to overcome the logistical challenges of reaching people in remote areas.

One of them, Ahmed Nour, described how supplies were being transported on donkeys in rural parts of Taiz and Lahj due to fuel shortages and the blocking of main roads.

What keeps them going in situations like this? "We're Yemenis, it is our duty," said Mr Nour.

BBC Monitoring reports and analyses news from TV, radio, web and print media around the world. You can follow BBC Monitoring on Twitter and Facebook.

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