Saudi charities boost health, education projects

Yemeni businessmen of Saudi origin and Saudi charities are having an impact on the health and education sectors in some of the poorest parts of Yemen, thanks to the various aid projects they fund.

Whereas previously they might have donated money for mosque-building, these groups have turned their attention to development projects, especially in the Hadhramaut, southeastern Yemen, where most of them hail from.

Established in 2006 by the sons of the founder of the Saudi Commercial Bank, Awon Development Foundation targets the poor through various projects.

After identifying long-term water shortage problems and the need for a reliable sewage system in rugged and very poor Hajar District in Hadhramaut, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Mahfood, a member of Awon’s board of trustees, funded the construction of reservoirs to collect rainwater, and a project to build a drinking water supply system. The cost of the projects, which will benefit around 6,500 people, is US$1,074,628.

Adel Bahamid, Awon’s executive manager, told IRIN the Foundation was set up to carry out charitable and relief projects aimed at developing Yemen’s infrastructure.


Photo: Awon Association
Education project in Yemen supported by wealthy Saudi businessmen

Education projects

Normally girls in Yemen, especially in rural areas, do not have a chance to complete their primary, let alone their secondary, education. School dropout rates among Yemeni girls are generally very high due to social customs which, among other things, force them into early marriage.

Three years ago Awon Foundation set up a project aimed at improving the lot of Yemeni girls. It refurbished a boys’ school, turned it into a girls-only school, and hired qualified female teachers.

Previously girls in the Awon Foundation school had ended their formal education in their fifth year of primary school, but currently there are 270 girls in the last year of primary school. In 2008, for the first time, the girls will attend secondary school, too.

In the past two years, another Saudi donor of Hadhrami origin, Sheikh Abdullah Buogashan, built two secondary schools for the most talented male students, one in Mukalla and the other in Seiyun.

Buogashan has plans to build a similar school for girls in Hadhramaut. It will offer grants to the most outstanding students to complete their education in the best academic institutions in the world.


Photo: Awon Association
Medical doctors from Saudi Arabia operating in a Yemeni hospital

Medical aid projects

The Taybah Welfare Association is another example of private contributions to projects to develop the country.

Set up in 1994 by a group of Saudi businessmen, Taybah supports health and education through financing medical camps, charity programmes, heart surgery, and the fight against blindness. It sent critical eye surgery cases to hospitals in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan. Taybah has also provided 101 patients with travel expenses to hospitals in the region, at a total cost of US$366,000.

In November 2007 Awon Foundation said it would finance a three-year project to fight malaria in Hadhramaut, Mahara and Shabwa, to which it allocated 77 million Yemeni riyals ($380,000). The project will be implemented by Yemen’s National Programme for Combating Malaria and includes support for training, awareness-raising, and spraying campaigns.

Reproductive health, family planning and the training of midwives in Hadhramaut was the focus another Awon project.

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