Building local humanitarian capacity in Yemen

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Working with local partners in emergencies enables Oxfam to respond to the needs of more vulnerable people in a timely and sensitive way. Here Bassim Assuqair shares a success story from Yemen where in partnership with Oxfam youth organization GWQ has been able to build humanitarian capacity to respond to the crisis in their local area.

A community health education session led by GWQ in Taiz Governorate, Yemen. Credit: Ebrahim Almosllmy, GWQ

Since the escalation of the conflict in Yemen in March 2015, our local partners have played a crucial role. They have helped us reach inaccessible areas and supported the delivery of our humanitarian programs, in very difficult situations.

We have tried to work with multiple partners side by side, in order to enhance their capacities and to ensure that the right interventions from the right people in the right areas are considered.
Both Oxfam and our local partners face huge challenges, including a rapidly changing context and an unstable security situation. Coordination with local authorities also poses challenges as different power groups exist at all levels and the political instability causes delays. In addition, cash fluidity crises have made it hard for our partners to withdraw the money they need to deliver programmes. On top of this, our local partners are unfamiliar with humanitarian work.

Despite all the challenges that Oxfam and our local partners are facing in Yemen, we have been able to do very extensive work with them. We have taken action to develop local humanitarian capacity, with a focus on civil society organizations. We have tried to work with multiple partners side by side, in order to enhance their capacities and to ensure that the right interventions from the right people in the right areas are considered.

One of the best success stories for Oxfam is in Taiz Governorate. Oxfam is unable to reach the city of Taiz as it is a hot spot area for fighting. The humanitarian crisis there is deteriorating and humanitarian assistance is very minimal. Oxfam found a local NGO based in the city and already operating and working to respond to the crisis.

after eight months of collaboration we supported them and helped to build their institutional capacities (including strengthening their HR processes, Logistics, Finance, WASH …etc)
Generation without Qat (GWQ) had no prior experience of humanitarian response. They are a local NGO working on development and youth programs. But, due to their readiness and flexibility to operate and respond to the humanitarian needs in Taiz city Oxfam started to work with them as a service provider. GWQ showed progress on their implementation and after eight months of collaboration we supported them and helped to build their institutional capacities (including strengthening their HR processes, Logistics, Finance, WASH …etc). GWQ were able to show how far they had advanced and then become a strategic partner with Oxfam. All WASH activities implemented in Taiz city are now implemented by them. They are delivering a humanitarian response of a high standard, collaborating with both Oxfam and other INGOs.

The GWQ team is working to prevent the spread of disease in a context where the normal functioning of water supplies, medical facilities, waste management and sewers have all been disrupted by the ongoing conflict. GWQ are distributing environmental cleaning kits and hygiene kits, working with communities to help them to protect themselves through health and environmental campaigns and solid waste management. They also provide support to Cholera centres and have conducted a jerry can cleaning campaign. As a result of the capacity building work Oxfam has done with GWQ they are now able to partner with other large organizations.

we can reach more inaccessible areas and have a greater focus on building resilience and empowering communities in humanitarian response activities
Oxfam’s’ role becomes more inclusive when working with partners. When Oxfam responded to the crisis in Yemen without local partners, there were a lot of critics in regards to the types of activities we undertook, areas we worked in, coordination mechanisms and other factors. But once Oxfam started to involve local partners more, our work changed to more facilitation and coordination with authorities. This has meant we can reach more inaccessible areas and have a greater focus on building resilience and empowering communities in humanitarian response activities. Oxfam in Yemen is not alone in responding to the humanitarian crises, but with 12 local CSOs, we are considered as one of the leaders in working with local partners in humanitarian response. Oxfam’s cholera response across Yemen involves working with seven local partners in five governorates.

Read more: GWQ’s Director Laila Alfaqeeh comments on her experience of partnership with Oxfam

Author
Bassim Assuqair

Bassim Assuqair

Bassim has been working in development programming since 2005 in a variety of roles, from working as a civil researcher to carrying out training projects on developmental issues. Currently, he is country partnership coordinator with Oxfam in Yemen. In this role he manages the partnership portfolio of Oxfam within the Humanitarian Response Program in Yemen. Bassim is responsible for managing the relationships of Oxfam with local CSOs which includes identifying, capacity assessment, contracting and capacity building.