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UK minister announces $239m aid package for Yemen

April 3, 2018 at 3:41 pm

Yemeni people carry the humanitarian aids including medical equipment and medicines in Taiz, Yemen on 4 March 2017 [Abdulnasser Alseddik/Anadolu Agency]

Alistair Burt, the United Kingdom’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, announced a $239 million (£170 million) aid package for Yemen at a UN conference in Geneva today.

The aid package will include crucial food, water and sanitation products for Yemenis desperately in need.

The announcement was made after the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres sought $3 billion to assist a humanitarian aid plan for some 22 million Yemenis. At the conference Guterres appealed for Yemen’s ports to be open for imports, emphasising that Sana’a airport is a “lifeline that must be kept open”.

The Houthi armed group currently control Hudaydah port, a strategic dock used for commercial shipping. The Saudi-led coalition has been monitoring ships in the Red Sea for potential Iranian weapons transfers to the Houthis. Iran categorically denies supporting the Houthis, and claimed late last month that the Houthis have their own capability using older Russian and Korean missiles.

All parties to the conflict were urged to engage with the new special envoy, Martin Griffiths, “without delay,” Guterres said at the conference. The appeal was made after the Houthi armed group executed another missile strike into Saudi Arabia’s Dhahran city, eastern province.

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But Britain’s adamant stance to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia – going as far as confirming it “lawful” to do so in its High Court in the UK last year – has led to questions over why they are providing arms which have killed civilians with one hand, and with the other aid.

Observers have also asked why the UK is trying to mediate the conflict. Last year, Ismail Ould Cheikh, former Special Envoy for Yemen was called “biased” and shot at whilst he approached the capital Sana’a to negotiate with the Houthis. The group believe Cheikh was far too sympathetic to the Saudi-led coalition.

The Yemen civil war erupted in 2014 when the Houthis overtook control of Sana’a. Back then, the internationally recognised president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi requested a coalition of Arab states to launch an air war campaign to neutralise territorial threats by the Houthis. The Saudi-led coalition officially began its operations in March 2015, while more than 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict according to the UN.

Yemen has seen nearly one million cases of cholera, with the latest medical condition thought to be bird flu.