Delayed end to Yemen civil war could cost $29bn, NGO says

Committee says Iran-backed Houthi rebels are ignoring critical parts of Stockholm agreement

People gather at the site of an air strike launched by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen  May 16, 2019. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi
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A British NGO has warned that if Yemen’s civil war does not end soon, it could cost international community $29 billion (Dh106.5bn) in humanitarian aid.

In a report due to be released on Monday that was obtained by The Guardian, the International Rescue Committee warned if peace is not reached in Yemen, it will take at least 20 years longer for it to return to pre-crisis levels of hunger.

The UN World Food Programme has said that at least 10 million Yemenis are “one step away from famine” as the war sparked by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels overrunning Sanaa, pushing out the internationally recognised government, continues into its fifth year.

The UN body is providing food aid to 12 million people in the country.

The committee said that there were now some signs there could be an end to the war, such as localised ceasefires, prisoner releases and some progress in implementing last December's Stockholm agreement.

Those talks in Sweden brought the two warring sides to the table for the first time since the conflict erupted.

But the NGO warned that such agreements were fragile because the Iran-backed Houthi rebels were ignoring critical elements of the agreement in the port city of Hodeidah.

Yemen’s President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi believes common ground can be found with the Houthi rebels by setting up a federal government.

On Sunday he said federalism was a main plank of the 2014 National Dialogue in Sanaa, which was upended by the Houthi takeover of the capital soon after.

In May, the UN's aid chief Mark Lowcock said billions of dollars in aid from the UAE and Saudi Arabia had prevented the situation from deteriorating.

“My most important message is to say thank you very much to the UAE and Saudi Arabia because without them the country would be much worse,” Mr Lowcock said.

This week's report said although former foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt’s visit to Yemen this year was a step forward, Britain has become less involved in trying to contribute to the peace process because it has been distracted by domestic politics.

David Miliband, president of the committee said: “The good news is that the huge efforts by humanitarian agencies, donor governments and aid workers have helped reduce slightly the appalling levels of child malnutrition in Yemen.

“The bad news is that, at this rate, it will take a further 20 years just to reach pre-war levels of child hunger. That’s twice the agreed timetable for ending malnutrition around the world.”

Mr Miliband was the former British foreign secretary between 2007 and 2010 under Labour prime minister Gordon Brown.