UNESCO’s Heritage Emergency Fund implements post-flood interventions in Old Sana’a

Heavy seasonal rains hit Yemen hard in April 2020 and exceeded the level of floods of the last thirty years. The extreme weather conditions further deteriorated the endangered state of conservation of the World Heritage Site of Sana’a, and aggravated the living conditions of the local communities. The floods resulted in extensive damage to a number of historical houses around Mahadi Mosque, in residential areas located on the west bank of Wadi Al-Sailah, which were already vulnerable and risking collapse.

Thanks to the financial support of the Heritage Emergency Fund and the European Union, UNESCO conducted rapid damage assessments, in partnership with the Public Works Project (PWP) and the General Organization for the Preservation of Historic Cities of Yemen (GOPHCY). Emergency works stabilized 18 historical houses, which are significant examples of outstanding mud civil architecture. Works focused on the stabilization of roofs, walls and foundations made of organic materials. Complementary interventions consisted of raising supporting stone walls along Wadi Al-Sailah, as well as paving and construction of decks to further protect the entrances and ground floor of vulnerable building that are used as storage and shops. The works are thus maintaining income generation activities while mitigating future risks of deterioration. The emergency works were implemented through a cash for work scheme, which mobilized 87 young workers (44 skilled and 43 unskilled) over a period of 56 days. The stabilization of the houses benefitted to 161 households members including 87 females. Interventions also included crafts atelier trainings to transfer skills to the newly recruited workers. In addition, UNESCO supported the construction of preventive physical barriers (movable floodgates) that will protect the Old City against future floods and improve the water dischargement system.

In 2021, this project will support the elaboration of a comprehensive study to improve the existing knowledge on the water and sewage infrastructures in Sana’a, inform the elaboration of a management plan that will increase the emergency response capacities of local stakeholders to mitigate the loss of cultural heritage.