Migrant workers on diplomatic crisis frontline

Migrant laborers work at a construction site in Doha in this file photo. (AFP)
Updated 15 June 2017

Migrant workers on diplomatic crisis frontline

DOHA: Ajit, an Indian electrician, is just seven months into his new job but right now he is a worried man, like many other members of the huge migrant workforce in Qatar.
He frets not only about his job, his future in the country but also the price of food.
“If this continues, there will be problems for people like us, the workers. The price of food will go up and there will be no jobs,” he told AFP.
He was referring to the diplomatic crisis in the Gulf that has seen Qatar isolated.
Ajit earns QR1,000 a month ($275), of which he sends QR600 home to his family.
He worries he would not be able to do that for much longer.
“In some supermarkets, the price of rice, tomatoes and onions has increased,” he said. “Where I was spending one riyal on each item, now it is double that.”
Ajit has come up with a solution to cope with the rising food prices in Doha — cut down to just one meal a day.
The 31-year-old is typical of the nervous migrant workforce.
As the crisis imploded, discussion has largely focused on the political and security aspects of the row between some of the richest countries in one of the world’s most volatile regions.
But outside the corridors of power, it is Qatar’s foreign workforce — totaling more than 2 million, mostly from south Asia — who are on the frontline when it comes to the immediate impact of the crisis.
While Qatar’s Western expats are likely to ride out the economic impact, there is no such luxury for Ajit and his colleagues.
The rising price of staple foods is just one of their fears.
Concerns are also growing about job security and the lack of much-needed overtime as economic uncertainty grows, due to what Doha has labeled the “blockade” imposed by neighboring countries.
“I have heard people saying there will be no more jobs in Qatar,” added Ajit.
A short distance away stood Anil, a 32-year-old scaffolder from Bangladesh, in blue overalls and a purple face-cover to shield from the fierce summer sun.
He was resting after a morning of labor in heat of 48 degrees Celsius in the rundown Doha suburb of Mshereib that is being transformed into a gleaming cafe, hotel and business area ready for the 2022 football World Cup.
“Everybody is talking about this problem (the crisis),” said Anil, 32. “Some people are saying they may send us home.”
In just one week since Qatar was cut off, Anil said the price of the apples he buys has more than doubled, from QR7 to QR18 per kilo.
“I’ve heard Qatar is supporting terrorists and that’s why they’ve been blockaded,” said Abdulbariq, 38, an electrician.
The Bangladeshi uses the money he earns — QR820 a month — to send his two daughters to school in India.
“This will affect them,” he fears.
The Gulf crisis could not have hit the workforce at a worse time.
Because of Ramadan, working hours have already been reduced and there is no chance to make up any shortfall through overtime. That though is only a temporary measure.
Although Qatari officials have, so far, confidently shrugged off the economic impact of isolation, that view is not shared on the country’s many construction sites.
“I have a father, brother, mother and sisters to look after, I send home QR1,500 a month,” said Noor-ul-Islam, a 26-year-old mason from Bangladesh. “Definitely there will be problems for my family if this crisis continues.”


UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

Updated 22 August 2019

UN warns of severe aid cuts in Yemen without new funds soon

  • Donors have pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis
  • But UN humanitarian chief Lise Grande says less than half the amount has been received so far
UNITED NATIONS: The UN humanitarian chief in Yemen warned Wednesday that unless significant new funding is received in the coming weeks, food rations for 12 million people in the war-torn country will be reduced and at least 2.5 million malnourished children will be cut off from life-saving services.
Lise Grande said the UN was forced to suspend most vaccination campaigns in May, and without new money a “staggering” 22 life-saving programs in Yemen will close in the next two months.
At a UN pledging conference in February, donors pledged $2.6 billion to meet the urgent needs of more than 20 million Yemenis, but Grande said that to date, less than half the amount has been received.
“When money doesn’t come, people die,” she said in a statement Wednesday.
The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of the capital, Sanaa, by Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels who control much of the country’s north. A Saudi-led coalition that includes the United Arab Emirates allied with Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Houthis since 2015.
The fighting in the Arab world’s poorest country has left thousands of civilians and created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical care shortages and pushing the country to the brink of famine.
UN deputy humanitarian chief Ursula Mueller told the Security Council on Tuesday that 12 million Yemenis have been assisted every month, “but much of this is about to stop” because only 34% of the UN’s $4.2 billion appeal for 2019 has been funded.
At this time last year, she said, 65% of the appeal was funded, including generous contributions from Yemen’s neighbors Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The UN humanitarian office in New York said Wednesday that Saudi Arabia and the UAE each pledged $750 million to its Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan for 2019.
Grande said the UN is grateful to donors who have lived up to their promises, and in half the districts where people were facing famine “conditions have improved to the point where families are no longer at risk of starvation.”
But she said of the 34 major UN humanitarian programs in Yemen, only three are funded for the entire year. Several have been forced to close in recent weeks, Grande said, and many large-scale projects designed to help destitute, hungry families have been unable to start.
Without new funds in the coming weeks, she said, 19 million people will also lose access to health care, including 1 million women who depend on the UN for reproductive health services. In addition, Grande said, clean water programs for 5 million people will have to shut down at the end of October and tens of thousands of displaced families may find themselves homeless.
“Millions of people in Yemen, who through no fault of their own are the victims of this conflict, depend on us to survive,” she said. “All of us are ashamed by the situation. It’s heart-breaking to look a family in the eye and say we have no money to help.”