DUBAI // Dozens of skydivers leapt from an aircraft circling high over Dubai yesterday to help thousands of people affected by the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
The group of mostly nervous first-timers, in tandem with instructors, took part in the UN World Food Programme (WFP) backed Jump for Yemen initiative that helped to raise Dh63,000 - enough to feed 28,000 people for a day.
"I am so excited to do this," said Reva Kassis, 23, a Lebanese expatriate who was experiencing skydiving for the first time. "It is my lifetime dream. I'll do it for a good cause," she said as she waited to board the aircraft dressed in a T-shirt that read: "I jumped for Yemen!"
Ms Kassis was among 70 people and WFP officials who signed up for the 13,000-feet jump over Skydive Dubai in Dubai Marina.
The first group of five took off at about 11am and were quickly out of the aircraft as it flew over the Palm Jumeirah before their instructors opened the parachutes, landing smoothly on the grassy dropzone. From boarding the plane to landing, the entire experience lasted about 20 minutes.
Each tandem jump was sold for Dh900, about half the usual price, by Skydive Dubai on the deals website Groupon UAE on February 4.
"The idea was to raise enough funds to feed 28,000 people a day," said Elise Bijon, WFP spokeswoman, who also skydived.
"Seventy people was the limit set by Skydive Dubai. The jumps were sold out in a day. Many were disappointed they couldn't participate. We hope we can do this again."
According to the WFP, more than 10 million people, or almost half of Yemen's population, is either hungry or "on the edge" of hunger.
The agency said child malnutrition rates were among the highest in the world with more than two million youngsters under five affected. Another one million children are already acutely malnourished.
Delicia Murugan, 24, said she had been inspired to skydive because it helped such a good cause.
"I signed up for a combination of reasons. I really wanted to do this, plus it is for charity, which is a big bonus," said the South African.
Another first-time jumper said she snapped up the offer as soon as it was announced. "It was a good deal for a good cause," said Vaishali Shah, 24.
The jumps were stopped for about an hour in the afternoon because visibility dropped below 3,000 metres. They resumed at about 3pm with the remaining 20 people parachuting safely to the ground.
Alan Gayton, general manager at Skydive Dubai, said they would consider organising similar initiatives for charity.
In its 2013 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, said its funding requirements had significantly risen by 22 per cent with the country urgently needing around US$716million (Dh2.6billion) in aid.
Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the world with nearly half of its 24 million people living in poverty. About 7 million do not have the money for three meals a day, according to Oxfam.