RIYADH: A high-level meeting to enhance the humanitarian response in Yemen got underway in the Saudi capital on Sunday with the primary stakeholders calling for more support from concerned organizations to resolve the crisis.
A five-member panel headed by Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, adviser to the royal court and general supervisor of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), discussed the challenges and opportunities for humanitarian work in Yemen.
Other panel members included Abdulmalik Al-Mekhlafi, Yemen’s deputy premier and foreign minister; Sir Mark Lowcock, UN undersecretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator; Christos Stylianides, humanitarian aid and crisis management commissioner at the EU for civil protection and humanitarian aid operations; and Maj. Gen. Abdullah Al-Hbabi, chief of military civilian operations.
Al-Rabeeah expressed concern about the crisis which has exacted a heavy toll on human lives, property and infrastructure.
Yemen has also been the epicenter of the single largest outbreak of cholera in a single year, with more than 700,000 suspected cases and more than 2,100 associated deaths reported since April 27.
Al-Rabeeah also noted that millions of Yemeni children could not go to school owing to various factors, such as the non-availability of teachers because their salaries have not been paid.
He said the KSRelief is developing a matrix — a cultural, social and political environment in which something develops — for the war-riven country. Young Saudis, male and female, will be involved as part of the program, Al-Rabeeah said.
Al-Mekhlafi said one challenge is the funding of humanitarian work in Yemen, adding that “we suffer from the lack of coordination between the legitimate government and humanitarian organizations.”
He also mentioned non-payment of salaries to employees in areas controlled by the Houthi rebels and their cohorts as another challenge for Yemen.
“The legitimate Yemeni government wants to pay them but it doesn’t have the amount needed. This is because the Houthi rebels collect 70 percent of the non-oil revenues,” he said.
He also noted the poor system of aid distribution, adding that the office for work coordination is in an area controlled by the Houthis.
He added that sometimes, the aid for distribution is seized by the Houthis who sell it on the black market. “We call on international humanitarian organizations to stop this act of the Houthi rebels,” he said.
Lowcock stressed three points: The first was that humanitarian aid needs unimpeded access to the most vulnerable people. Second, the humanitarian response to the world’s worst hunger crisis and its worst cholera outbreak must be fully resourced. Third, he asked the donors to fund the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan to ensure the most effective coordinated response across the country and to contain conditionality to the minimum and keep reporting requirements to a level commensurate with the situation on the ground.
Stylianides, on the other hand, responded to a charge that humanitarian aid workers are not doing their job and that there is no coordination between international relief coordinators and their local counterparts.
“We allow our workers to do their job on the ground and they have performed outstandingly,” he said.
As to delayed salaries, he said that the Yemeni prime minister had made a promise that these will be paid.