Rescuing the Drowning

Social Responsibility Movies

Rescuing the Drowning

Each day brings new arrivals to Yemen's shores. September is the busiest month for boat arrivals- and with record breaking numbers already in August, the staff of the Society for Humanitarian Solidarity or SHS is braced for hundreds of arrivals each day.

SHS monitors 600 kilometres of beach 24/7 against a backdrop of increasing instability in southern Yemen.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Nasser Salim Ali Al-Hamairy, Founder SHS:
"We came here in the basis of information about a boat that disembarked about 56 new arrivals in al-Hamra area. Now we are here to receive them and provide them with urgent assistance including food and transportation."

The smugglers are ruthless, often beating the passengers and overloading the boats so they risk capsizing. This time, there are no casualties, but some are too exhausted and traumatized to move.

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Nasser Salim Ali Al-Hamairy, Founder SHS:
"After this short rest in the shore, we are going to distribute the clothes and then we take them to a transit center where they take some rest for two to four hours so that they can sleep and have a meal before taking them to the reception center in Ahwar or Mayf’aa.”

The work is not without risk. The staff often endanger their own lives to save others- pulling people from the waves in difficult seas and operating in extremely volatile security conditions where tribal violence is now a daily occurrence.

While their presence means more people survive- there are still casualties, and SHS also buries the dead.

Al-Hamairy founded SHS in 1995 as the new arrivals began to mount- and were becoming a burden on the impoverished local community. He says he was motivated to form the NGO to assist both groups.

Over the years the numbers increased and in recent weeks as many as 300 people arrive each day.

Khadeeja Othman fled Somalia with her teenage daughters after her husband was shot dead in front of her eyes.

She thought the worst was behind them- but the memories of the journey on the smuggler's boat still haunts her. The vessel was adrift for a week:

SOUNDBITE (Arabic) Khadeeja Othman, Somali boat survivor:
“Day by day the situation in the boat was getting worse and worse. There was no food, there was no water- people were dying and at a certain point I fell unconscious. I no longer knew what was going on.”

Khadeeja says she doesn't remember how she got ashore- but that she awoke in a clinic alone. Her daughters had died. She now lives alone in Kharaz refugee camp.

The suffering of refugees like Khadeeja is what compels SHS to work around the clock to save as many lives as possible. They feel their work is a moral duty.

In naming SHS as the 2011 Nansen Refugee Award winner, the UN Refugee agency recognizes the life- saving assistance provided to the tens of thousands of refugees and migrants who arrive on Yemen’s shores each year.


Language: Arabic

Year of Production: 2011

Length: 4:30 mins

Country: Yemen


  • Muhamed Sacirbey (UNTV)


  • Susan Sacirbey (UNTV)