Flood-Rocked Hadramaut Rebuilds, Two Years Later

It has been two short years since catastrophe befell Hadramaut and al-Mahra governorates. Flooding and heavy rains on 23rd and 24th of October 2008 claimed lives of 68 people. In addition, 3,221 buildings were destroyed entirely and 3,830 more partially damaged, as well as the grave damage pummelling the infrastructure of the two governorates.

Since the catastrophe, the local and national governments have struggled with how to fund and implement the desperately needed recovery effort.  The percentage of financial losses is estimated at YR141 billion.

In the wake of the events, President Ali Abdullah Saleh issued a decree establishing a reconstruction fund for Hadramaut and al-Mahra to compensate victims for what the torrential rains and mudslides claimed in their wake.

Neighbouring and allied countries contributed to funding that initiative, as well as Yemeni donors from inside and outside Yemen. Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, and other Gulf’s countries distinguished themselves with their rapid assistance, as well as the World Bank, among other major international organizations.

How did reconstruction begin?

The reconstruction fund was established in December, soon after the disaster had been occurred.  But the fund only began its conduct in March 2009 for an interim period of four months.

Engineer, Abdallah Mohammed Muta’afi, agent of the Ministry of Public Works and Highways, was chosen as executive director of the Fund and the more structured governmental attention began in August 2009, almost a full year after the occurrence of the catastrophe.

Within a short period, the owners of the partially-damaged buildings have been compensated completely for their losses.  Those whose property was entirely destroyed received compensation packages estimated at not less than 85% of their razed homes’ recorded contract value,  in  accordance with the approved allotments of the Fund.

A still small proportion of all these structures, a little less than one third, have been completely restored, and people have resumed dwelling in them.  The rest of the houses, according to repeated official statements, will be completed in the “near future.”

Much of the news coverage neglected the damage of the inclement weather to the fisheries sector.  But according to official figures, complete compensation was made to the denizens inhabiting the coast of Hadramout to accomplish, as part of an aid package initiated in November 2009.

However, those fishermen who lost their livelihoods in the more distant and less accessible al-Mahra governorate have yet to be compensated in full.

Of all the areas targeted for emergency recovery aid, the agricultural sector received the lion’s share, at 70% of the projected total.  The fund has reportedly fulfilled 80% of reconstruction for buried water wells, channels, pumps and other irrigation machinery.

Work has also focused on compensating the owners of livestock in al-Mahra, which began in January of last year, which coincided with the Ramadan holiday.

The most lucrative aspect of the local agricultural scene in the area, the date palm sector, was heavily affected.  Palms are considered a crucial and historical aspect of Hadrami social and economic life.

For the purposes of rehabilitating that trade, a contract has been signed with the organization of agricultural services to import 250 thousand palm seedlings, which are of a high-grade and consist of a variety of distinctive types from throughout the Gulf and Arab region.

There are also other sectors that have been addressed in the compensation package, such as the reconstruction of agricultural lands that lost irrigation ditches and suffered severed soil erosion as a result of devastating flooding.

The Fund’s Future Mission

According to a statement of the fund’s Executive Director, the work in the coming period will include  a number of projects to completely reconstruct the entirely destoryed buildings, as well as to see to the livelihood of the victims’ families.

In addition, projections have been made to developing plans and implementing projects to protect the governorates of Hadramaut and al- Mahara from the occurrence of any other, similar disaster in the future.

Centers of floods prediction have begun work in coordination with Civil Defense and the Interior Ministry.  In the Hadramaut valley, a disaster prevention committee has begun work, as the operational procedures are devised and implemented.

In 2011, the government has projected the completion of the infrastructure repairs of some regions, in agreement with the Ministry of Works and with the participation of the World Bank and the Kuwaiti Arab Fund for Development.

Sheikh Khalifa’s Project

Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, ruler of the United Arab Emirates, provided a donation  to the victims consisting of 1000 housing units at the cost of $ 100 million AED.

Speaking on this initiative, Mr. Khalfan al-Kanadi, director of the office of the UAE Red Crescent in Yemen said, “the donation aims to make up for what the disaster ruined in 2008. The people of the UAE sympathize with the affected areas in Hadramout.”

Yasmine al-Awadi, engineer and assistant undersecretary for the housing sector in the Ministry of Public Works and Highways, commented that, “despite the challenges, difficulties, and the far distance separating the sites, the fund has successfully provided reconstruction of those areas, roads, as well as services.  Coordination with the local authorities has been key to our efforts, and is key to resolving the problems of compensation.”

Fahd Salah al-Aajam, Assistant Undersecretary of the Governor of Hadramout for valley affairs, weighed in, “currently, we are launching the last installment estimated at 10% for the entirely destroyed buildings, in which people are now living again.”

Nasser Kair Bin Bakhit said, “with regard to houses built by the reconstruction fund in Sayhut, some have been already completed and some are still under implementation. We call on the Fund to follow up with contractors in order to complete the houses and enable those who are badly affected to get their own houses back.”

Mohamed Awad al-Tamimi, a local council member in the al-Somme district noted of the efforts, “we are satisfied with what the fund has reconstructed, which is around 90% of buildings.  Also, the majority of farmers have also been compensated.”