FAO Regional Office for Near East and North Africa

Towards Risk-Informed Response to Natural Disasters in Conflict-affected Communities

Best Practices – Lessons learned

Yemen, 23 February – 7 March 2022

Introduction

The Near East and North Africa (NENA) region is confronted with serious challenges that exacerbate fragility and threaten resilience, food security, and nutrition in the region. These include conflicts, slow and rapid onset disasters, and degradation of already scarce natural resources, which are further aggravated by inappropriate policies and high population growth in a changing climate.

More than 50% of people affected by ‘natural’ disasters during the period 2005 – 2009 lived in fragile and conflict-affected states. Food insecurity and malnutrition are prevalent in fragile and conflict-affected communities in the region. The compounded effect of conflict and the increase of various natural hazards in recent years has led to a significant increase in the number of hungry people in countries affected by conflicts globally and particularly in the NENA region.  This may further force food insecure communities towards advanced stages of hunger and food deprivation. For example, in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen, slow and rapid onset disasters such as flash floods, forest fires, and droughts, have already pushed conflict-affected people beyond their ability to cope leading to additional stresses for vulnerable communities, especially those affected by conflict.

Key Facts

Location: Hadramout Governorate in Yemen

Multi stakeholders: Environment Protection Authority (EPA), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)

Donor: State of Japan

Target Group: 140 male and female trainees

Challenge

Due to the current conflict in the country, more than 20 million Yemenis, for instance, were food insecure, including nearly 10 million on the brink of famine and starvation, despite ongoing humanitarian food assistance. Two-thirds of all districts in the country are in the pre-famine state according to OCHA 2018, Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview.

Approximately 328,726 populations were at risk of flooding across the country. Yemen, as well, was affected by torrential rain and flash flooding in June 2019, affecting some 70,000 people, including an estimated 38,594 internally displaced people (IDPs), in over 10 governorates.

As one of the most affected areas is the governorate of Hadramout, which suffers from torrential rains and floods that have resulted in losses in lives and property besides the loss of a huge amount of water. In addition, the absence of disaster risk reduction (DRR) methodologies and a community-based disaster mitigation system. In addition, targeting some of the areas affected by natural disasters might cause unrest and tension between populations in the targeted areas and populations in other areas that intervention did not consider, even though they are in need of similar assistance due to a limited budget.

There is another challenge that can be very serious since the community has a dangerous method of warning, which is shooting a few gunshots in the air, which is similar to the Morse code. This method may cause death, as bullets returning is very dangerous.

Project objectives

The project has started with an assessment of various disaster-related hazards, vulnerabilities, and capacities in the target location. The result of this assessment was used to tailor DRR interventions that would be piloted and the necessary capacity and training needs to be required to implement these pilots. Choosing partners was due to their technical expertise on DDR and their presence in the location. In addition, the identification and implementation of the pilot intervention have taken into consideration all dimensions related to the conflict in the region.  The project is addressing the challenges by targeting the local communities in the most affected areas by floods by rehabilitating two main canals in Doan, Hadhramaut and providing DRR training to the local community.

The results of the survey and interviews for the assessment were effective and successful which was held to select the most affected areas by flood in the region with a higher number of beneficiaries, also the region is one of the most affected by conflict currently occurring in Yemen.

Methodological approach

Combining the two practices of training the local community and rehabilitation of canals is a very successful method to guarantee sustainability and put the community on the right track toward building a successful DRR system. The local community’s awareness towards improving their mitigation system through training was successful since they had a role in helping local organizations to rehabilitate the two canals that cause flood risk, and the rehabilitation of the canals has decreased the risk of flood significantly. The local community and experts with the help of local authorities have started working on rehabilitating the two main canals in Doan, Hadhramaut that have been damaged and caused uncontrolled floods and erosion of agricultural land in addition to losing a huge amount of water. The project has protected the first canal and lands from counted erosion through, rehabilitating the weir. Sediments and trees have blocked the second canal and this has caused pressure on the sides of the channel until it collapsed causing floods, the project has rebuilt the collapsed parts of the canal.

After the rehabilitation of the two canals, the participants have benefited from professional training that focused on raising awareness of community-based flood early warning systems and DRR-integrated actions as emergency interventions. In addition, the Water National Agencies Expert provided other types of training on developing models using hydraulic and hydrology modelling to predict flood risk generation.

Impacts

During the evaluation of the project, all participants agreed that the project is effective and covers the need of the targeted community. The impact of the training that community members received has changed their perspective and the importance of having a Community-Based Flood Early-Warning System and DRR techniques to help them in the future mitigate such risks. There is more cooperation between community members, leaders, local organizations, and local authorities to adopt a broader Early Warning System since it is currently a primary system that depends on firing guns and mosques speakers.

There is a focus on adopting new tools and infrastructures, such as early warning devices that are available already but not installed yet. Community members are very keen to install these devices and start running automatic rain stations as soon as possible since only manual rain stations are functioning.

In addition, rehabilitation of the two canals has reduced the floods in the region, which reduces the casualties and loss of water. The amount of water saved will be used in activities that can improve the livelihood of community members such as agriculture and grazing.

The project also addresses the gender element since female participants were almost a third of the total number of participants and have provided very important outputs and suggestions.

Finally, according to most participants, the central government supported facilitating and coordinating the project between the participants, local NGOs, and trainers. The local government as well provided the implementing agencies with preliminary data that were needed both in training and during the rehabilitation of two canals, which gives us hope regarding better communication in the future of the region between all stakeholders.

Sustainability

During the conflict, the urge for basic needs such as food is high and in Yemen, we find that the local community is very interested in the project and has participated actively. There is a will for enhancing their living conditions although they face very important challenges such as weakening state institutes and conflict of interests.

In addition, DRR projects in conflicted countries normally are not sustainable due to the situation and lack of security, but in this project, the will for sustainability is the desire of the local population and therefore local communities will provide support to organizations that are willing to assist.

Finally, local community members are now trained on the Flood Early-Warning System and DRR techniques that will be implemented in case of future disasters that can face the region.

Replicability and upscaling

The project has the elements of replicability since it has provided green solutions and has achieved its target through providing successful DRR solutions in conflicted countries. Also, the ideas of benefiting from different experiences of neighboring countries in disaster management (the Omani experiences, for example) make the project more resilient. The participants suggested that this exposure will benefit their project and make it more resilient and replicable.

Also, participants suggested preparing a matrix of projects for the most dangerous areas and in need of rapid intervention and quality projects for future reference. This matrix can be the key to replicating the project in other areas in the governorate of Hadhramaut and the whole of Yemen.