Players posing for pictures

Yemen's disabled basketball players overcoming adversity on court

In Yemen's capital Sanaa, women in long-sleeved athletics shirts raced down a basketball court in wheelchairs, dribbling and passing as a small crowd cheered them on.

"If the Yemeni people are suffering from the war, then those with disabilities are suffering twice as much," said Amal Hizam from the sidelines, herself also in a wheelchair.

The Arab world's poorest country has been devastated by conflict, the coronavirus pandemic, and a humanitarian crisis that the United Nations has called the world's worst.

But all that didn't stop a local wheelchair basketball championship going ahead in Sanaa this month.

Five all-women teams were part of the competition, only the second of its kind, including Al-Erada - Arabic for "The Will" - and Al-Mustaqbal, or "The Future".

Tens of thousands have been killed in Yemen since 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition intervened to support the government after Huthi rebels took control of Sanaa the year before.

A UN-brokered agreement reached two years ago between the government and the Iran-backed Huthis offered some hope, but a peaceful settlement has yet to materialise.

The female players, some wearing face coverings as well as their headscarves, jostled and shot baskets at an indoor court from sports wheelchairs painted red and light-green.

Hizam, assistant director of Yemen's sports federation for people with disabilities, said initiatives such as the tournament were "practically non-existent".