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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Yemeni volunteers come together to bring Aden streets back to life  

Pot holes and sand fortifications still line city roads

A street in Aden after volunteers cleared it out. Ali Mahmood for The National 
A street in Aden after volunteers cleared it out. Ali Mahmood for The National 

A group of young men and women in Aden governorate are volunteering their time to clear the city streets of rubble and debris left by years of war.

In March 2015 Iran-backed Houthi rebels entered the southern port city in an attempt to push forward with their expansion plan. Four months later they were driven out of the city.

But the damage was extensive. Massive potholes caused by airstrikes line the streets while indiscriminate mortar and rocket attacks by Houthi fighters caused extensive damage to civilian property. Sand fortifications used by the local resistance to keep the rebels at bay can still be found throughout Aden.

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Today both Houthi sleeper cells and Yemen's Al Qaeda franchise - Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - pose a security threat in the southern governorate - but this hasn't deterred the area's youth from kick-starting their own reconstruction project.

The campaign, launched in October by young volunteers, receives donations from private individuals.

Two weeks ago, in Aden's districts of Al Mansoura and Al Sheikh Othman, a group of young Yemenis could be seen removing rubble from the roads, fastening electricity wires to the utility poles and painting the pavements.

"The government is in exile, it doesn't care about the worsening situation in the city," said Motea Moqbel. "The winter is at our doorsteps, if we keep waiting for the government, the city will become a nest for mosquitoes which transfer diseases like Malaria and Dengue Fever as well as Cholera," Mr Moqbel said, his enthusiasm dampened by a sense of disillusion in the government.

Fadel Al Essaiey the editor-in chief of Arab Press and media coordinator for the project told The National that a number of businessmen in Aden had injected money into the project through a shared bank account.

Engineer Mouneer Mohammed, who helped repair the electricity in Al Mansoura, believes the campaign is also key in raising a sense of civil awareness.

"We must wake up from beneath the ruins of the war," said Mr Mohammed. "We must change the ruins to restoration and build bases with resilience and determination."

"The aesthetics of our city will not shine unless we become a part of it, the government will do part of the job but the biggest part is how to keep the streets shining which is mainly our duty as a community before the cleaners and the government who can do nothing without our positive participation," added Mr Mohammed.