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The New Arab Staff

A bus driver lost his vehicle to a fire and this is how Yemenis responded

The video of the burning bus sparked support for the young driver [Twitter]

Date of publication: 26 July, 2020

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A bus driver who lost his only source of income in a fire has seen thousands rally in his support in a two-day social media drive.

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Bus, Driver, Yemen,
Yemenis rallied around a young bus driver who lost his only source of income this week when the rented vehicle caught fire in capital Sanaa.

Akram Ali Al-Salwi nudged the hearts of millions when a video of the fire emerged online on Friday, showing the 25-year-old on the floor crying in distress as the bus burned beside him.

As the videos began to circulate, Yemenis around the world began to mobilise to help the young man, leading to fundraising campaigns intended to assist him to get back on his feet.

But as news got round on social media, donations began to flood into his official account and Al-Salwi soon found himself with enough money to not only replace the bus he was renting from someone, but to buy his own.

It is unclear how much was exactly raised for Al-Salwi, though posts by activists involved in the campaign confirmed it was enough to cover the cost of two buses, with the remaining funds expected to go towards the young man's upcoming wedding.

Millions of people in Yemen have had their lives and livelihoods devastated in recent years as the already-impoverished state struggles to stabilise amid an ongoing brutal war that has battered the economy.

On Wednesday, several UN agencies warned acute food insecurity is forecast to rise sharply in war-ravaged Yemen over a combination of factors exacerbated by the coronavirus.

The report, which covers only the southern parts of Yemen, forecasts that the number of people "facing high levels of acute food insecurity" will increase from two million in February-April this year to 3.2 million in July-December.

That represents 40 percent of the population in 133 districts in southern Yemen covered by the study, up from 25 percent.

Economic shocks, conflict, floods, desert locusts and now the novel coronavirus were creating a perfect storm for the expected sharp rise in food insecurity, the report said.

The World Food Programme, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and other partners who prepared the report called the increase "alarming".

Laurent Bukera, WFP country director in Yemen, said that "Yemen is facing a crisis on multiple fronts".

"We must act now... The warning signs have returned and with coronavirus pandemic added to the mix, it could get a lot worse if humanitarian action is delayed," he warned.

The WFP has previously said that despite humanitarian assistance, over 20 million people all over Yemen are food insecure, including nearly 10 million who are facing acute food shortages.

The population of Yemen is around 27 million.

The UN has called the situation in Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The food security situation in Yemen had eased in 2019 thanks to a massive scale-up of international aid, the report said, before this year's setback.

Read also: 'Visionary' groom: Thousands attend blind man's wedding in Yemen after online plea for friends

The report "is telling us that Yemen is again on the brink of a major food security crisis," said Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

Grande said the UN averted famine in Yemen last year after receiving generous aid from the international community.

"Unless we receive the funding we need now, we won't be able to do the same this time," she warned.

More than 100,000 people have been killed and millions displaced since a Saudi-led coalition intervened to push back Houthi rebels in 2015.

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