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Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 21 August 2018

Coalition aid will help rebuild Yemen

Iran-backed Houthis have inflicted untold damage on the Arab world's poorest nation

A scene of destruction in the streets of Yemen's capital, Sanaa. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
A scene of destruction in the streets of Yemen's capital, Sanaa. Khaled Abdullah / Reuters

With the generous provision of Saudi aid to Yemen, the contrast between the coalition and the Houthis is even more evident. The rebels are clinging on to their stranglehold in Hodeidah and Sanaa, inflicting their reign of terror and mismanagement on the citizens of both.

In recent weeks, reports have emerged revealing their use of human shields and child soldiers, a callous and cynical deployment of the most vulnerable to win a hopeless war. Meanwhile up to one million landmines have been laid by the rebels, ensuring they will leave behind a decades-long legacy of death and destruction.

Given the damage they have wrought on the country, it is perhaps unsurprising that in Aden, where the country’s internationally recognised government now sits, people have taken to the streets to protest the dearth of utilities, basic service and food they need to survive. Against such a troubled backdrop, the challenge facing the people of Yemen can appear insurmountable, even after the Houthis are defeated. But that is no reason not to try.

This week, Saudi Arabia announced it will grant petroleum products worth $60 million every month to Yemen to power the country’s electricity grid and boost its flagging currency. Mohammed Al Jaber, the Saudi ambassador to Yemen, said the aid would “alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people”.

It will certainly help reduce living costs, which have grown substantially following the rial’s collapse. But its significance is far greater; much like the gift of internet, installed in Aden by the UAE in July, the provision of non-cash aid by the coalition will underpin the future reconstruction of Yemen.

For that is the greatest challenge moving forward. With financial and military backing from Tehran, the Houthi rebels have inflicted untold damage on the Arab world’s poorest nation. Today it is home to a devastating cholera outbreak while the Houthis' grip on the port city of Hodeidah has restricted the entry of vital food and aid supplies.

The UAE alone has pledged nearly $4 billion in aid over three years to ease the humanitarian crisis, making it Yemen's single largest donor. It is now up to the Houthis to co-operate with UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, who recently unveiled plans to begin a first round of peace negotiations on September 6. So far they have shown little co-operation or willing.

Yet the petroleum granted by Saudi Arabia is precisely the kind of economic stimulus that Yemen requires to shore up its weak currency and economy. When the conflict eventually ends, what will be needed is an all-encompassing reconstruction effort.

The Yemeni people need international support. Thus far, it is Saudi Arabia and the UAE who have stepped up. Only they have shown genuine concern for the fate of the Yemeni people.

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