Yemen government pays thousands of civil servants in Hodeidah

United Nations hails decision amid efforts to implement ceasefire

Yemeni Prime Minister Moeen Abdulmalik delivers a speech during a pledging conference for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen on February 26, 2019 at the United Nations offices in Geneva.  / AFP / Fabrice COFFRINI
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Yemen’s government has paid the salaries of more than 30,000 state employees in Hodeidah province after a gap of more than two years, officials said.

The province was controlled by the Houthi rebels from the beginning of the civil war in 2014 until last year, when many areas were liberated by government forces.

"The department of finance in the province started paying two months' salary for 31,330 civil servants since Tuesday, in both government and rebel-held areas," deputy provincial governor Waleed Al Qudaimi told The National.

“People suffered greatly under the strict siege imposed by the Houthis which deprived them of their income,” he said.

The salary payments were ordered by President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi and come as the United Nations tries to implement a ceasefire agreement for the port city of Hodeidah and the wider province.

Mohammed Bekheit, a civil servant in Hodeidah city, said he was relieved. “I never thought that I would be coming to the bank to collect my salary, especially in our city which is still a war zone,” he said.

Prime Minister Maeen AbdulMalek Saeed confirmed the salary payments during a donor pledging conference for Yemen in Geneva on Tuesday.

He said payments were being made to about 24,000 employees in the health sector, which was under Houthi control, and about 8,000 academics in the higher education sector.

"We have paid pensions as well," the prime minister said.

The donor conference raised US$2.6 billion (Dh9.5bn) for humanitarian assistance to Yemen, a 30 per cent increase on the amount pledged last year.

The UN Special Envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, welcomed the positive steps taken by the government.

“The SE urges the parties to strengthen their efforts to constructively address the economic situation to the benefit of all Yemenis across the country,” his office said in a tweet.

Mr Griffiths convened talks between the government and rebels in Sweden in December that resulted in agreements on a series of confidence-building measures and a ceasefire in Hodeidah city and its surroundings. The truce went into effect on December 18 but has yet to be implemented, with the government accusing the Houthis of violating the deal.

The ceasefire is essential to ensuring the flow of food and humanitarian aid into Yemen, where millions of people are facing starvation as a result of the conflict.