UN, Arab League launches new humanitarian plan for Yemen

Bassem Aly, Monday 17 Mar 2014

Nearly 8 million Yemenis to receive humanitarian aid, most of whom struggle for access to food, water and proper healthcare in the conflict-torn country

Press Conference
UN officials and members of the Arab League discussing the new humanitarian plan for Yemen at the League of Arab States headquarters in Tahrir Square, Cairo, 17 March 2014 (Photo: Bassem Aly)

A United Nations delegation convened at the Cairo-based headquarters of the Arab League on Monday to announce a humanitarian campaign for some 7.6 million Yemenis over the next year.

The campaign, prepared by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), will hope to rebuild communities, assist refugees and migrants and also ensure equal access to amenities for a wider portion of Yemenis, all the while tackling what the UN report called the root problems the country's ongoing crisis.

Faeqa Saeed Al-Saleh, the Arab League's Assistant Secretary-General, said that the UN plan, which will be undertaken in coordination with the Yemeni government, aims to end the sufferings of the Yemeni people.

Several OCHA reports were distributed at Monday's conference, highlighting the dire situation in Yemen, where over half of the country's nearly 24 million people need some form of assistance, most of it in terms of better access to food, water and healthcare.

Almost 20 percent of the country suffers from food scarcity, with over a million children acutely malnourished, according to an OCHA report.

Al-Saleh urged those attending Monday's conference to present the UN report's findings to aid groups like Friends of Yemen, an international body formed in 2010 to help gather financial assistance for the country.

Mohamed Harmal, deputy head of the Yemeni government's unit for internally displaced persons (IDPs), expressed his country's appreciation for the role international organisations have played in Yemen and called for continued support.

"Though the political process is progressing in Yemen, armed conflicts are affecting its socio-economic conditions," Harmal said.

OCHA attributed the country's current situation to a weak government, political instability and poor resource management.

According to UN figures, over 243,000 registered refugees have sought asylum in Yemen, most of them from Somalia.

More than 500,000 IDPs, returnees and other marginalised people are currently struggling to re-establish their livelihoods in rural areas still contaminated by mines and other explosive remnants of war.

On 25 January, Yemeni political factions concluded a national dialogue aiming to draft a new constitution and construct a federal political system, amid calls for independence from citizens in the south.

The dialogue, launched in March 2013, followed a UN-backed transition deal that led to the resignation of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, whose more than 30-year rule ended after a 2011 popular uprising in the Middle East's poorest country.

On 10 February of this year, Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi and the country's main political parties announced an agreement to transform the country into a six-region federation as part of the political transition. The six agreed-upon regions include four in the north, comprising Azal, Saba, Janad and Tahama, and two in the south, Aden and Hadramawt.

At the Arab League conference on Monday, Johannes van der Klaauw, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, described the humanitarian crisis in Yemen as the largest around the world, "globally speaking," and insisted that it must be addressed if the political transition is to succeed.

The UN official stressed that the results of Yemen's recently completed national dialogue should be implemented in reality.  


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