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Yesterday, at a conference in Geneva, only half of the 2.1 billion dollar sum requested by the UN to aid Yemen was pledged by governments and humanitarian agencies. Despite this positive sign that the UN may meet its target by the end of the year, the ongoing violence is restricting the effectiveness of aid in Yemen.
With 2017, the conflict in Yemen draws into its second year and shows no signs of a meaningful political solution. The conflict, while embodying a complex range of interests and actors, primarily lies between the Saudi-backed President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Houthi. The conflict has been brutal and the United Nations’ humanitarian aid official in Yemen has said that the civilian death toll passed 10,000 earlier this year, with an additional 40,000 wounded and 10 million in need of ‘urgent assistance’. In response, the UN has made an appeal for aid pledges. UN secretary general António Guterres states that the country is in desperate need of aid. “On average, a child under the age of five dies of preventable causes in Yemen every 10 minutes,” he said. “This means 50 children in will die during today’s conference, and all of those deaths could have been prevented.” Aid pledges at the conference came from Kuwait, Germany, US, UK and $150m from Saudi Arabia.
Unfortunately, there are fears that the conflict will increasingly restrict the provision of aid as conditions on the ground make access to those individuals extremely difficult.
Hisham Al-Omeisy, a political analyst based in Yemen highlights that “On the one end, the Saudi-led coalition is enforcing a commercial blockade and restrictions on relief supplies. Ninety percent of imports are food, fuel, and drugs: the blockade is choking the country that is heavily reliant on imports, and unreasonable delays in inspection as well as rejections of letting aid through.” Whilst, on the other hand, local groups and warlords disrupt aid delivery, sometimes causing “outright looting and selling on the black market”, while Houthis block access to besieged cities like Taiz. Thus, there must be some form of political solution before those in need can be cared for adequately.
Indeed, many aid workers at the conferences hoped the conference would pressure parties to resolve the conflict or at least respect the international laws of conflict. There were no clear government commitments to cease hostilities or to attempt to unblocked ports for international aid workers to reach the 17 million people in need of food.
There seem to be some discrepancies in the commitments of Saudi Arabia, the US and UK towards aid and their roles in the conflict. Saudi Arabia has been bombing Yemen and inflicting heavy casualties throughout the conflict with weapons bought from the US and UK.