By: Asma Al-mohattwari
The Sheba Center for Strategic Studies, in cooperation with the Yemen Microfinance Network, recently held a seminar discussing a case study of Abyan entitled “The impact of war and armed confrontations on the Self-Help Savings and Loans Program – ‘Abyan’.”
Following the events of May 27, 2011 in Abyan and the fall of Zinjubar and Knfar – where there is a Self-Help Savings and Loans Program office, the program was itself was strongly affected. All clients and employees had been displaced, leaving the future of the office in jeopardy.
Jwaher Ali, the program’s Executive Director, said that before the crises there had been five sections of the office but that there were now only three, and also that the number of program employees had significantly decreased.
“The aim of the study is to view what happened to the savings and loan program in Abyan as a case of a microfinance institution affected by war and armed confrontations which revolved between military forces and armed elements,” she said.
Compounding the damage is the problem they face with premiums collections in the Zinjubar loan portfolio, which is estimated to amount to 186 million Yemeni riyals. The loan risk percentage for the portfolio went from 0% over the past seven years to 82% in 2011.
The study confirmed that the program was unable to meet its payment obligations on time. Such payment obligations rose to 95%, compared with 74% and 84% for the years 2009 and 2010.
Regarding the effects of crisis events on clients who lost their housing programs or projects, or both, the study showed that they have suffered from physical, psychological and social problems which have allowed many success stories to become failures and led to problems relating to health, education and family disintegration.
“Not only that, but the crises also left more than 470 disabled -most of them children – and 1400 dead in Zinjubar,” said Ashwaq Silan, Monitoring Director for Abyan, Aden, Lahej, Shabwa and Al-Dala.
The study indicated that 50% of program clients had been exposed to material losses as a result of armed clashes, including the destruction and burning of houses, theft, armed robbery and decreased business activity.
Advisor Ghamdan Awon said that 45% of clients’ houses had been exposed to theft and armed robbery, with 28% of homes left damaged and 27% burnt.
A large number – no less than 32 percent – of the programs’ employees have been laid off because of the crises. In this regard, Mr. Nabil Al-Shehaly, Research and Development Manager at Al-Aml Bank, asked for the names of the laid-off employees so that they could be given hiring priority.
The study reported on aspects of donors’ interventions, which involve capital grants, interest-free loans, regular loans and grants, all provided to recover clients.
For his part, Mr. Al-Shehaly suggested that donors’ interventions should be directed by the programkl ; he stated that “every donor should have a specific aspect to donate towards. We will work towards increased activity in Abyan and contribute to the program’s success,” he said.
The study recommended that organizations interested in donating to the program should put money towards studies which cover all aspects of problems involving armed confrontations. The imperatives of conducting group research on the effects of war and solving the problem of displaced people from Abyan were also covered.
The program has implemented the use of self-help groups, making it the only project in Yemen so far to do so. The program allows clients to save for a certain period and then borrow a percentage of the savings, something which is deemed highly important and enabling for women in Abyan and Hadhramaut governorates.