x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

GCC can play a role in averting Yemen's crisis

If aid is not delivered to Yemen urgently it could end up a failed state like Somalia: riddled by violence, economically stagnant and starving.

Yemen, again, is at a crossroads. On Monday, the UN warned that this sliver of Arab instability is on its way to suffering the same fate as Somalia: riddled by violence, economically stagnant and starving. The fate of roughly four million people depends on an increase of humanitarian support.

"If we don't act now, we hit a humanitarian disaster soon," said Geert Cappelaere, a UN official in Yemen. "Yemen will become another Somalia from a humanitarian perspective."

This is one view, and it's a dramatic one. But it is not a forgone conclusion. Much depends on how Arab and regional neighbours respond to this crisis.

Politically, Yemen's best hope is Yemen itself. Much has been made of the GCC-sponsored transition deal, signed recently. But it was never popular among all segments of Yemeni society, and a key element - immunity for President Ali Abdullah Saleh - brought fierce condemnation from Yemen's youth. Mr Saleh, meanwhile, has gone nowhere.

What Yemenis need most from their neighbours is aid, food, economic assistance - even jobs. A fuel crisis is growing in Yemen, food prices are soaring and oil production has plummeted. Water-borne illnesses have been reported in the south, where access to clean water has been blocked because of fighting. Thousands of internally displaced people are living on the outskirts of Sanaa.

The UN says $447 million is needed immediately, and GCC states can and should do more to help fill this funding shortfall. Past pledges have helped, but as reports of a looming humanitarian crisis trickle in its clear more is needed.

The move by Saudi Arabia this week to provide "all Yemen's urgent needs", particularly fuel, is a step in the right direction. Qatar and Libya reportedly have plans to import Yemeni labour to help rebuild Libya.

And the closing remarks of the GCC summit this week called for efforts to "integrate Yemen's economy with the economy of the GCC".

Yemen needs bold words like these, but it needs bold action first. Politically, its problems are its own. But the region has a responsibility to help stave off the train wreck that some are now predicting.