Update Meeting on Yemen, co-hosted by the British-Yemeni Society and the MBI Al Jaber Foundation
The Update Meeting was chaired by the new British-Yemeni Society Chairman, Robert Wilson, with a panel of experts including Abubakr Al-Shamahi, British-Yemeni Journalist, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, and Awssan Kamal, independent Humanitarian Aid worker recently returned from Yemen. The MBI Al Jaber Seminar Room was almost full to capacity and some very interesting questions were raised leading to full discussion and debate.
The meeting traced recent tragic events in Yemen including the on-going conflict; its effect on the Yemeni people; the dire humanitarian situation and the Geneva peace talks. The fact that organisers of the talks were able to get all parties to travel to Geneva was considered very positive. It was reported, however, that it was impossible to have both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis in the same room together, both sides coming to the talks with very different agendas.
Regarding the situation on the ground, despite the continuing air strikes by the coalition, the Houthis are continuing to advance, attacking sites near to oil supplies, and the fall of Aden appears inevitable. There have been attempts at a ceasefire which have resulted in some stopping of the air strikes but fighting continued on the ground. It is proving very difficult to find a solution.
The factions fighting in Yemen present a very complex picture. The Saudi-led coalition and Al-Qaeda are fighting against the same side without being allies, and while ISIS is present in Yemen, it is not as strong a presence as Al-Qaeda. The real danger from ISIS is in its efforts to create sectarian violence.
The effects of the on-going conflict are demonstrated in that approximately 20 million people in Yemen, from a population of 25 million, are now considered ‘in need’, with 6 and a half million severely ‘food insecure’. In Sana’a, food stores are running out of supplies while in Taiz food cannot be transported or distributed. Food reserves disappeared within 12-13 days of the start of the Gulf coalition bombardment and markets are now devoid of flour and sugar – shortages that are likely to have been exacerbated by hoarding.
The situation in Aden is much worse than in Sana’a. Workers there have not been paid for over 3 months, food reserves have been bombed and are now unusable, and it has been reported that ships coming into Yemen are being stopped and searched outside of Yemeni waters. The situation has become so bad that people are taking huge risks to smuggle food and distribute it to those most in need. INGO sector employees have responded to this crisis where possible and their efforts have been described as ‘amazing’. The social welfare platform, however, has not been paid for over 4 months and thus payments to the very needy have not been distributed.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is not new, and in the light of global issues emerging during the past year or so, Yemen’s needs have drifted somewhat into the background. There remain, however, startling figures to refocus the world’s attention, for example, 1 in 3 people who need humanitarian support in the Middle East are living in Yemen. In addition, the health sector is now in total collapse, disease is spreading with the onset of summer and temperatures of 42 – 45 degrees Celsius while chemicals to kill bacteria are not available on the markets. Figures regarding numbers afflicted by disease and numbers of dying or dead are also not available as those government bodies who would have reported this data have also collapsed.
The British-Yemeni Society is setting up a Yemen Crisis Appeal to help those living in Yemen during this period of great difficulty. Please go to their website at: http://www.al-bab.com/bys/
for more information.
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