Saudi Arabia boosts Yemen humanitarian aid at UN meeting

The kingdom and the UAE were commended for their donations towards helping the Yemeni people

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al Jubeir at Council on Foreign Relations . Photo by Melanie Einzig
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Humanitarian efforts in Yemen received a boost on Wednesday at a conference for Yemen at the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) where Saudi Arabia announced it would boost its aid donations to the country to exceed $14 billion (Dh51 bn) for the first time.

Adel Al Jubeir, the country’s vice-foreign minister, told the conference that Riyadh was making a fresh donation of $500 million to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

The conference heard that the UAE had provided $6 bn to Yemen since 2015; more than 60 per cent was targeted at development and the rest allocated to humanitarian activities.

Mark Lowcock, the head of OCHA, said he was grateful for additional resources that would allow the agency to reach 11 million people a month.

“I’ve been working for many years with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia on lots of humanitarian challenges. One of the most important partnerships I’ve been trying to solidify since I took up my position as the emergency relief coordinator is the partnership with the kingdom and the King Salman Humanitarian Centre,” he said. “I want to thank the kingdom personally for this partnership.

“Yemen is the world’s biggest international partnership and it is also where we have the world’s biggest international humanitarian operation and we can only have that because our partners finance that operation,” he added.

“Every month we are reaching 11 million people in Yemen with assistance. Without that assistance millions would have died and that assistance would not be possible without our financiers.”

Mr Al Jubeir said Saudi Arabia was committed to alleviating the Yemeni peoples’ plight as well as making new investments in development and rehabilitation.

“We appreciate the work of the UN organisations in the humanitarian area and in particular OCHA,” he said. “We look forward to continuing our strong cooperation in this area, we are committed to alleviate the suffering of our Yemeni brethren.

“We will continue to see wherever we can provide support for the people in Yemen as well as direct support through the King Salman Humanitarian Centre.”

An OCHA report revealed this week that the UAE was the single biggest donor for its work in Yemen. That report was welcomed by Sheikh Hamdan bin Zayed Al Nahyan, chairman of the Emirates Red Crescent.

“The UAE was never far from the humanitarian challenges in Yemen and its humanitarian presence did not just begin today. It has always remained among the Yemeni people, through its humanitarian programmes and development projects, which assisted most Yemeni governorates and are still helping to ease the suffering of locals and improving their livelihoods," Sheikh Hamdan said on Tuesday.

"The UAE will continue to be proactive in responding to its humanitarian call of duty. It has responded to the humanitarian situation of Yemenis and has implemented many vital development projects in the fields of health, education, housing and other infrastructure and social services," he added while stressing that the UAE’s leading projects have advanced its development efforts in Yemen.

The value of the UAE’s assistance to the Yemeni people from 2015 to September 23 this year amounted to Dh21.7 bn.

Mr Al Jubeir has met with President of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, at the headquarters of Saudi Arabia's delegation to the United Nations.

At the conference, speakers said there had been progress in gaining accessing to almost every Yemeni, but one leading agency pleaded to parties that were blocking aid to remove the obstacles. “We say let us do our job, let us be neutral, let us be certain we help the victims, the innocent people who are victims of war,” said David Beasley, director of the World Food Programme.

He said 15 per cent of the shipments needed in areas controlled by the Iran-backed Houthi militia were being blocked on the road between Sanaa to Aden.

“That’s people, that’s children, that’s people’s lives,” he said.

By contrast the Arab Coalition had worked constructively with the WFP requests. “The amount of co-operation taking place has been quite remarkable,” he said.

Martin Griffith, the UN special envoy on Yemen, said relief from suffering and hunger remained a top priority for all involved in attempting to de-escalate the conflict.

“Priority should be given to urgent humanitarian issues that would alleviate the suffering of millions of Yemenis who cannot afford food, basic commodities, travel and medical treatment,” he said.  “Yemen needs to break from this vicious cycle of violence now and be safeguarded from the recent tensions in the region that could risk its prospects for peace."