UN says Saudi charity will provide aid money for Yemen

AP , Tuesday 27 Oct 2015

A youth uses his mobile to take pictures of houses damaged by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Monday, Oct. 26, 2015 (Photo: AP)

The U.N. humanitarian chief says a humanitarian organization founded by Saudi Arabia's king has signed eight agreements with the United Nations that will provide $244 million in aid for war-ravaged Yemen.

Stephen O'Brien told a news conference the cash is already flowing and he expects the ninth and final agreement with the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid to be signed in the coming days.

The United Nations appealed for $274 million in emergency aid for Yemen in April and in May Saudi Arabia pledged to fully fund the appeal.

In the meantime, the humanitarian needs in Yemen have escalated to $1.6 billion, which O'Brien said is only about 40 percent funded.

Fighting in Yemen has killed more than 4,000 people, leaving the Arab world's poorest country in the grip of a humanitarian crisis and on the brink of famine. The U.N. says more than 21 million people — 80 percent of the population — need humanitarian assistance.

The conflict pits President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, a U.S. ally, against Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels — who seized the capital, Sanaa, last year — and military units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

A Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition began launching airstrikes against the Houthis and their allies on March 26.

Abdullah al-Rabeeah, director of the King Salman Center which was set up in May, was pressured about Saudi airstrikes creating humanitarian suffering on the ground at the same time the government is providing humanitarian aid.

"Our aid is impartial and we are not involved in any politics," he said. "We are able to reach all provinces in Yemen, including those under Houthi control."

Al-Rabeeah said he would welcome a cease-fire "provided that all parties will abide by the cease-fire."

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