Supporting Cultural Institutions’ Readiness in Emergencies in Yemen

Under the framework to support local institutions in Yemen, UNESCO and the Social Fund for Development held capacity building training on safeguarding cultural heritage during emergencies between November 6-11 in Sana’a.

Due to the ongoing conflict, climate change and lack of maintenance, many historical buildings and sites have been destroyed or severely damaged in Yemen. UNESCO has been responding by rehabilitating historical sites in Aden, Shibam, Sana’a and Zabid as part of the EU-funded project, Cash for Work: Promoting Livelihood Opportunities for Urban Youth in Yemen.

To ensure the readiness of local institutions to respond and contribute to the protection of cultural assets, UNESCO trained 42 cultural professionals, including decision-makers and experts, on how to intervene during emergencies by forming a team and developing a strategic plan.

It is almost impossible to prevent disasters, but it is possible to reduce their effects and damages by adopting an appropriate plan to manage and mitigate their risk
Kamal Al-Dabai - Director of Dhamar Museum.

The workshop introduced people responsible with the correct mechanisms used in rapid intervention, strengthened partnerships between relevant authorities, and established a plan for the formation of an emergency intervention team in historic cities registered in UNESCO World Heritage List.

“There are systematic ways to work in safeguarding cultural heritage properties during disasters and it's necessary this work is managed by specialists and supported by other parties including civil society organizations,” said Ahmed Haidara, an SFD project officer.

At the end of the workshop, UNESCO and SFD simulated an emergency scenario in Shibam Kawkaban, a historical site recently impacted by floods. Attendees practiced measuring damages to buildings, intervening to protect antiquities, and conducting first aid on the injured.

“I hope this workshop expands to include other organizations from different parts of the country so everyone can be an active partner in protecting cultural heritage,” said Jamila Al-Daili, Director of the Folklore Museum in Sana’a. “We need additional extensive workshops to enhance our performance during disasters.”

UNESCO and the EU are committed to continue building the capacities of local communities in order to protect cultural heritage in Yemen. As of September 2021, the Cash for work project enrolled around 3,000 Yemeni women and men, rehabilitated 161 historic buildings and sites, and surveyed the damages of 16,000 historic buildings.

“It was a successful workshop as we managed to further emphasize the importance of cooperation in times of emergency,” said Haidara.