Saudi Arabia, UAE Jointly Pledge $500 Million in Yemen Aid

The Saudi Arabia and UAE-led Sunni coalition has been repeatedly blamed for civilian deaths in Yemen, which the UN considers to be the world's worst humanitarian crisis

Jibril Mohammed Ali Al-Hakami, 2, lies on a bed at the al-Thawra hospital where he receives treatment for malnutrition in Hodeidah, Yemen November 17, 2018.
ABDULJABBAR ZEYAD / REUTERS

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have jointly pledged $500 million to address shortages in food in war-torn Yemen, where the United Nations have repeatedly warned of a looming famine.

The aid will "support 10 to 12 million Yemenis ... to address the humanitarian need in the sectors of food and nutrition through the United Nations, international, regional and local organizations," Abdullah al-Rabeeah, general supervisor of King Salman's Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSRelief), told a press conference.

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Both Saudi Arabia and the UAE are leading a Sunni coalition which began an air campaign against the Houthi rebels in Yemen since March 2015.

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The coalition, which has been repeatedly blamed for civilian deaths, was formed a few months after the Iran-backed Houthis took over the capital Sana'a and other parts of Yemen in late 2014. 

Cumulative number of fatalities in incidents of violence by location, from June 9 (start of Hodeidah’s offensive) to Nov. 10, 2018 in Yemen
Reuters graphic

The UN considers Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

In March 2017, humanitarian experts assessed that 6.8 million Yemenis face a food emergency with acute malnutrition and a rising death rate, only one step away from outright famine.

Earlier this month, the UN's World Food Program (WFP) said it is increasing its food distribution from 8 million to 14 million people, adding that famine could hit Yemen within six months if conditions remain as they are now.

Clashes resume 

Intense fighting broke out in Yemen's port city of Hodeidah late on Monday, shattering a lull in violence that had raised hopes of a ceasefire between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi insurgents as the United Nations tried to resume peace talks.

Coalition warplanes conducted more than 10 air strikes on Houthi positions and battles could be heard in the "July 7" district, four km (2.5 miles) away from the port, residents said. One resident said a medium-range missile had been fired from the city centre towards the district in the suburbs.

The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates had last week ordered a halt in its offensive against the Houthi-held Red Sea port city, now a focus of the war, amid pressure from the West to end a conflict that has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The two countries also pledged on Tuesday a new $500 million food aid programme for Yemen, aiming to reach 10 to 12 million people.

The Iranian-aligned Houthi group announced early on Monday it was halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia, the UAE and their Yemeni allies, in one of its biggest concessions since it quit the southern port city of Aden in 2015.

The Houthi movement also said it was ready for a broader ceasefire if the coalition "wants peace".

Later Yemen information minister Moammar al-Eryani said the Houthis had "fired a missile towards Saudi lands", adding on his Twitter account the missile failed to reach its target and fell inside Yemen. Houthi authorities could not immediately be reached for comment on the report.

It was not immediately clear whether the renewed fighting in Hodeidah would derail efforts by U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths to salvage peace talks that collapsed in September when the Houthi delegation failed to show up.

"The fighting is escalating and we can clearly hear machine guns and mortar fire. This is one of the worst nights we have experienced," said Hodeidah resident Mustafa Abdo.

When asked about the fighting, a pro-coalition Yemeni military source told Reuters late on Monday that a ceasefire in Hodeidah would start only after the U.N. Security Council passes a British-drafted resolution on Yemen.