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Yemen at the UN – April 2017 Review


In April, the Saudi-led military coalition’s proposed assault on the rebel-held Red Sea port of Hudaydah, and the likely humanitarian catastrophe it would precipitate, was again the focus of most international policy discussions regarding Yemen. By month’s end, however, widespread opposition to the operation within the US, at the UN, within the humanitarian community and elsewhere appeared to gain purchase with both the Saudi-led coalition and American policy makers contemplating United States military support for the action, with these latter two groups apparently re-evaluating Saudi-led coalition plans for an offensive and exploring political alternatives to the attack.

On the ground, tensions amongst armed groups and political factions supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemen repeatedly arose. The most notable instances were in the governorates of Aden and Hadramawt. In Aden, “Security Belt” forces back by the United Arab Emirates were involved in an armed standoff with forces loyal to President Abdo Rabbu Mansour Hadi, eventually leading Hadi to sack both the head of the Security Belt and the governor of Aden. In Hadramawt, local power brokers seeking greater autonomy from the central government held the “Hadramawt Inclusive Conference”, under the implicit patronage of the UAE.

The World Food Program (WFP) announced it was scaling up operations in Yemen to help address the country’s food crisis – 17 million people are in need of food assistance in Yemen, with 7 million of these facing a food security emergency. WFP officials stressed, however, that the success of such operations was dependent “immediate sufficient resources from donors.” To spur funding efforts, the governments of Sweden and Switzerland co-chaired with the UN the “High Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Response in Yemen” in Geneva on April 25, with pledges amounting to $1.1 billion – more than half the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Yemen for 2017. While the event was deemed a success, UN officials have emphasized that donors must quickly convert their pledges into cash deposits if a famine this summer is to be averted.

Despite increased US counter terrorism activity and drone strikes in Yemen, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) remained active last month, carrying out assassinations and attacks against both Houthi rebels and allied forces of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, as well as UAE-back pro-government forces. On the frontlines, however, despite an intensification of the conflict in various areas, no party made substantial territorial gains.

In economic and financial developments, the new Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) headquarters in Aden was connected – six months after the previous headquarters in Sana’a was disconnected – to the SWIFT network for international money transfers; the connection will remain inoperable, however, until the necessary CBY staff return from Dubai, where they are undergoing training to operate the SWIFT connection (which would allow the CBY to access international support funds). In Sana’a, the Houthi-Saleh authorities initiated a food voucher system for public servants, in an attempt to compensate for their inability to pay the almost one million government workers living in areas under Houthi-Saleh control who have not received a paycheck since September 2016. Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) announced that livestock protection, through vaccinations and other treatments, was a key emergency response priority for 2017, given plummeting livestock numbers amongst the 1.5 million Yemeni households dependant on agriculture.

Meanwhile, reports of human rights violations and war crimes by all belligerent parties to the Yemeni conflict continued unabated, among them being: the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights stated last month that the Saudi-led coalition’s blockade of the Yemen “involves grave breaches of the most basic norms of human rights law, as well as of the law of armed conflict”; meanwhile in Sana’a, a Houthi-Saleh security court sentenced 62-year-old journalist Yahya al-Jubaihi to death for allegedly spying for the Saudi-led coalition, in a closed-door court trial in which al-Jubaihi was denied regular access to a lawyer.

The Saudi-led coalition attack on Hudaydah Port

The prospect of a Saudi-led coalition attack on Hudaydah City and the likely humanitarian fallout have dominated internationally policy discussions on Yemen for a second month in a row, with dozens of NGOs, UN agencies and diplomats, politicians in various countries and bi-partisan groups in the US congress warning that such an attack would have catastrophic consequences for millions of Yemenis already on the brink of famine.

Yemen is massively import-dependant – before the current crisis the country imported up to 90% of the food Yemenis eat – and Hudaydah port is the entry-point for between 70-80% of current humanitarian deliveries and an even greater share of commercial imports; Hudaydah has been characterized as the life-line that is essentially feeding most of a country in which two-thirds of the population is already food insecure.

In the beginning of 2017, troops fighting on behalf of the internationally recognized government of Yemen, backed by the Saudi-led military coalition, launched Operation Golden Spear along the country’s west coast, in an attempt to dislodge the Houthi rebels and allied forces of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh from access to the Red Sea. After taking the coastal town of Mokha the coalition announced its intention to press on to Hudaydah, just less than 200 kilometers to the north. In the face of stiff military resistance and the Houthi-Saleh forces’ heavy use of landmines, however, government ground troops have made little headway north of Mokha.

In seeking to gain military leverage for the assault on Hudaydah, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – the second largest coalition partner – have been lobbying the Trump administration in Washington for direct US military assistance, such as US Special Forces, in attacking Hudaydah. US officials expressed reservations about deploying troops to directly participate in Hudaydah offensive, with discussions of potential support focused on intelligence and logistics support.

The Yemeni government and the coalition claim that the port has provided a major sources of revenues and arms smuggling for Houthi-Saleh forces, and that taking Hudaydah would force them back into peace talks. Humanitarian deliveries, the coalition has claimed, can be rerouted to the southern port of Aden, held by the internationally recognized government, the newly refurbished Mokha port, and elsewhere.

Members of the US defence establishment, the White House administration and various members of the US Congress have come out in favour of American support for the attack, and recent indications have pointed to deepening ties between the Trump administration and the Saudi royal family – such as Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman’s visit in March to the White House, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’s mid-April trip to Riyadh, and the announcements at the beginning of May of tens of billions in new US-Saudi arms deals, and that President Trump’s first official foreign visit will be to Saudi Arabia this month.

Opposition to the attack on Hudaydah

On April 18, at a Yemen Sanctions Committee meeting, Security Council member states were briefed on the situation in Hudaydah by the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick, Coordinator of the Panel of Experts Ahmed Himmiche, and Country Director of the World Food Programme Stephen Anderson. Discussions revolved around the increased inspection delays the coalition was enforcing on cargo entering the port, Hudaydah’s limited capacity to offload cargo due to coalition airstrikes that have destroy cranes, as well as poor management at the port. In spite of this, panel members emphasised that there is no effective substitute to Hudaydah port for imports into Yemen and distribution to the country’s largest population centers.

George Khoury, Head of OCHA Yemen, reiterated this point later in April, stating that even at a reduced capacity: “there is no viable substitute for Al Hudaydah Port – both in terms of location and infrastructure. Any alterations to the commercial and humanitarian imports coming through this port would have grave consequences on the country at a time when it faces a severe food, health, and nutrition crisis… Steering the humanitarian response away from Al Hudaydah Port, even temporarily, is inconceivable, particularly in a war torn country where infrastructure and security impede movement.”

Even the prospect of an attack on the port is negatively impacting the humanitarian situation, both in terms of discouraging commercial cargo traffic, as well as Houthi-Saleh forces implementing increasingly oppressive security measure in anticipation of an attack. Reports from Hudaydah last month described large-scale arbitrary arrests in the city. Aid agencies increasingly are being perceived as security threats and are facing restrictions on their freedom to move and distribute aid.

At an April 13 meeting at the US State Department’s headquarters, officials from the department and the Pentagon told aid agencies that the highest levels of the US government were debating the humanitarian considerations related to a possible Hudaydah operation. In trying to ease concerns related to the attack, a Pentagon official told the aid groups that the operation would be “clean”, and that the port could be secured within four to six weeks; it was unclear what the “four to six week” projection based upon, with another Pentagon official later saying that it was unrealistic and the operation could take months. Notably, before reaching Hudaydah, government ground troops would have to pass through several cities in which Houthi-Saleh forces are heavily entrenched, with the inability of government forces to progress north of Mokha as yet likely telling of the quagmire further attempts to progress up the coast would entail.

On April 10 a letter that had been circulating in the US Congress for several weeks garnering bipartisan support was sent to the White House with the signatures of 55 senators, demanding that President Trump seek congressional approval for any escalation in US military involvement in the Yemen war. The letter voiced concern regarding whether such involvement would be in America’s interest, citing such things as the prospect of famine in Yemen following an attack on Hudaydah, and that Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has become a “de facto” ally of pro-government forces.

On April 27, another bipartisan group of senators sent a letter to Saudi Ambassador Khalid bin Salman calling on his government to refrain from attacking Hudaydah, to reform the inspection mechanism for ships to facilitate quicker delivery of humanitarian and commercial supplies, and allow new cranes to be supplied at Hudaydah to make up for lost offloading capacity.

Less than a week later, on May 2, senate members issued a letter to US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis stating: “We are committed to using our Constitutional authority to assert greater oversight over US involvement in the conflict… which has never been authorized by Congress.” The letter then threatened legislation to prohibit American support for an assault on Hudaydah if Mattis failed to consult congress on the details of possible US involvement.

As of the beginning of May, opposition to the attack seemed to have garnered some traction, with observers noting that the Saudi-led coalition appeared to be exploring political alternatives to a military assault on Hudaydah; the US administration still had made no public comment on regarding its prospective role regarding an assault on Hudaydah.

Developments on the ground

Tension within pro-Hadi forces in Aden

Continuing a trend that has become apparent since the beginning of 2017, throughout April tensions between various groups and armed factions fighting on behalf of the internationally recognized government repeatedly arose; this friction has primarily occurred between forces backed by the UAE and those loyal to President Hadi.

In Aden, for instance, a flashpoint for tensions in April was the strategic Al-Alam checkpoint, the eastern gateway of Aden that connects the city with the Abyan governorate and Hadi’s tribal support base there. It is the only entrance to Aden not controlled by the UAE-back Hezam al-Amni, or “Security Belt” forces, which were, until the end of April, headed by the prominent UAE-allied Salafi leader Hani bin Braik (see more below). Hadi had sent the Presidential Guard to seize control of the Al-Alam checkpoint from the Security Belt in February, following allegations that AQAP had used it to smuggle weapons into Aden. The checkpoint has been a source of tension between the two groups since, and on April 15 Al-Alam checkpoint was closed following an armed standoff between the two groups – a standoff that persisted through to the end of April. On April 17, a “Joint Security Center” was established in an effort to facilitate communication and coordination between the various security forces operating in Aden, though the center had, as April ended, achieved little apparent impact.

In the last week of April UAE-allied forces, which control the Aden airport, then prevented the head of the Presidential Guard, the newly appointed Brigadier General Mehran al-Qubati, from re-entering the country after returning from a trip to Cairo; the standoff was finally resolved when Saudi Arabia agreed to fly al-Qubati out of Aden airport to Riyadh.

In apparent retaliation two days later, on April 28, President Hadi issued a decree dismissing both Hani Bin Braik (who was also a Minister of State in the government) and Aidarus al-Zubaidi, the UAE-allied governor of Aden. (Importantly to note, until this decision the UAE had exercised its proxy authority in South Yemen largely through Bin Breik and al-Zubaidi, as well as the Yafii tribe and Salafists organizations – with most member of the Security Belt being drawn from these two groups; al-Zubaidi is also a prominent Southern Movement leader from al-Dhal’e Governorate, where the UAE has garnered popular support.)

As of this writing, public anger over Hadi’s decree had manifested as street protests in Aden, led by thousands of Southern Movement members. The UAE also responded with unusually blunt criticism of Hadi regarding the decision. In a measure of the tensions in Aden as of the beginning of May, neither Hadi nor his prime minister had returned, both opting to remain in Riyadh. On May 3, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman then held an unscheduled meeting with President Hadi in an apparent bid to defuse tensions.

The Hadramawt Inclusive Conference

Tensions and divergent interests between President Hadi and the UAE were also on display in the eastern governorate of Hadramawt last month. On April 23 the “Hadramawt Inclusive Conference” was staged in Mukalla City, where participants – consisting of stakeholders and power brokers from Hadramawt exclusively – emphasized the centrality of the Hadrami identity over their Yemeni one, and made public statements regarding the need for the governorate to assert control over its security institutions, governance and natural resources, such as oil and gas. Various speakers referred to “50 years of oppression” – covering the period both after Hadramawt joined South Yemen (1967), and post-unification of North and South Yemen (1990). This is an implicit rejection not just of central government rule from Sana’a and President Hadi’s project for a unified Yemen, but also the Southern Movement’s goal for a unified, independent South Yemen.

The UAE quietly supported the conference last month, and has played patron to Hadrami ambitions for greater independence through creating, training and arming the Hadrami Elite Forces, which have acted with increasing autonomy from the Hadi government, asserting their lead in operations against AQAP and demanding that government troops hand over control of various checkpoints across Hadramawt.

It should be noted that UAE moves to solidify its influence with local groups in South Yemen can be seen as part of a larger Emirati strategy to assert military control and project power throughout the Horn of Africa region.

Al-Dhale governorate

Other signs of tensions between ostensibly pro-government forces seemed apparent on April 17, when an improvised explosive device (IED) targeted a convoy carrying a senior pro-Hadi commander, Ali Muqbil Saleh, in government-held Al-Dhale governorate. When it was attacked the convoy had been traveling back to Aden, having gone north in the first place in an attempt to broker the release of trucks carrying cash payments for public sector workers in Taiz City; the trucks, however, had been commandeered by Southern Movement fighters at a checkpoint en route. Even with a direct order from President Hadi that the trucks be released, Ali Muqbil Saleh had failed to secure the release of the trucks – and then was attacked as he returned to Aden.

Frontline developments

Intense fighting in various areas of Yemen saw mostly incremental movements in the frontlines between pro-government troops and Houthi-Saleh forces. In Sa’ada governorate, for instance, government troops, backed by coalition airstrikes, announced on April 16 that they had captured Al-Shaer mountain in the northern Baqim district. In Taiz governorate, east of Mokha, there was intense fighting and coalition airstrikes as pro-government troops sought to dislodge Houthi-Saleh forces from key positions from which they have been harassing government supply lines, in particular the Khalid Bin Walid military base in the Al-Nar mountain; by the end of April the base was reportedly under siege by government troops.

Other notable incidents in April included the Sudanese government, on April 10, announcing that five of its soldiers had been killed and 22 injured in fighting on behalf of government of Yemen; Sudan is thought to have some 5,000 troops deployed as part of the Saudi-led coalition. A week later, on April 18, a Saudi helicopter was shot down in Marib governorate in an apparent “friendly fire” incident involving coalition air defense systems; the incident left 12 Saudi officers dead.

AQAP related activity

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula was active throughout April, carry out assassinations and attacks against both Houthi-Saleh forces and UAE-back pro-government forces.

Amongst the reported AQAP incidents was an ambushed against elite UAE-back local forces in Hadramawt Governorate in the first week of the month, followed the next day by an IED attack that killed almost a dozen Houthi fighters in the Madhwaqin area of Al-Bayda governorate. From April 14-16, AQAP assassinated a commander in the UAE-backed Security Belt forces in the Shaqra area of Abyan governorate, killed seven Houthi fighters using an IED in Ibb governorate, and assassinated a Houthi commander in Ibb city. AQAP also claimed an April 23 attack in Wadi Daoun, central Hadramawt, which killed two government soldiers.

In March this year various tribal groups in Shabwa governorate announced the formation of anti-AQAP coalition, with these tribal forces apparently responsible for an ambush against an AQAP commander in the governorate’s central Rawdah area in mid-April. On April 20, the UAE then announced its intent to expand the training and arming of Shabwani Elite Forces, in an effort to counter AQAP in the governorate.

Anti-AQAP efforts suffered a setback on April 22, however, when a US drone strike killed three members of government-allied Southern Resistance in Shabwa’s Al-Saeed district. Amongst other US counter-terrorism activity in Yemen last month, the US Navy claimed it killed eight AQAP operatives in Shabwa on April 23, including Abu Ahmed Awlaqi, who the US said to have led AQAP operations in Shabwa province.

Humanitarian developments

As of May 2, OCHA was reporting that 17 million people were in need of food assistance, 7 million of whom are facing what OCHA categorizes as a food security emergency – a Phase 4 classification on the UN’s Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) index, and the last step before the official designation of famine and humanitarian catastrophe. Some 2.2 million children are acutely malnourished – effectively, one child under five-years-old dies every 10 minutes in Yemen of preventable causes – and more than a million pregnant women are malnourished. Almost every coastal governorate in Yemen was deemed to be suffering a food security emergency, with those governorates being Sa’ada, Hajjah, Al Hudaydah, Taiz, Lahj, Abyan and Shabwah – of these, Al Hudaydah and Taiz are at the most severe risk of famine.

WFP expands operations

The World Food Program announced it was scaling up its emergency food operations in Yemen in an attempt to reach 9 million people in Yemen through 2017. Prioritized amongst these were 2.5 million people in the most heavily affected areas where the WFP said it intends to distribute “full food rations” – meaning enough to cover 100% of the nutritional needs of each family for a month – in an attempt to prevent the onset of famine.

The WFP stated that these expanded emergency operations will cost up to $1.2 billion, and that “the success of this operation hinges on immediate sufficient resources from donors.” Indeed, the WFP reported that its general food distribution in Yemen had fallen between February and March, from reaching 5 million people in February to reaching 3.2 million the following month, in large part due to a shortfall in funds.

Successful fundraising event

Earlier this year the UN announced that its total humanitarian appeal for Yemen for 2017 was $2.1 billion, which had been less than 15% met as of the beginning of April (the UN’s 2016 humanitarian appeal for Yemen of some $1.8 billion was only 60% met by year’s end). In an effort to close the funding gap this year, the governments of Sweden and Switzerland co-hosted with the UN the “High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen” in Geneva on April 25. In his opening remarks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stated bluntly: “We are witnessing the starving and crippling of an entire generation.”

In the end, the event raised some $1.1 billion – covering more than half of the UN’s humanitarian appeal for Yemen for 2017. Of the more than 40 countries and NGO that committed funds, the largest donors were the UK, Saudi Arabia, the European Commission, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, who all pledged $100 million or more.

OCHA’s Khoury, however, pointed out in the week following the fundraising event, that the vast amount of the money committed is still only in pledge form, and that it will take time for those pledges to be converted into cash that the various humanitarian organizations can use.

The problem from our side is that we need the money now,” he said. “Not in August or September. If the World Food Programme does not get the money now, there will be a break in the food pipeline by the beginning of July. Every month we are expected to feed 7 million people. Last month, the WFP reached 3 million, because of lack of resources.”

Human rights and war crimes

Blockade “breaches human rights law”

In a press statement on April 12, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and international sanctions, Idriss Jazairy, said “the aerial and naval blockade imposed on Yemen by the coalition forces since March 2015 [is] one of the main causes of the humanitarian catastrophe.

Jazairy’s statement called on the blockade to be lifted to stop “the catastrophe of millions facing starvation”. He noted that the blockade “has restricted and disrupted the import and export of food, fuel and medical supplies as well as humanitarian aid… The blockade involves grave breaches of the most basic norms of human rights law, as well as of the law of armed conflict.”

Jazairy made specific reference to Al Hudaydah Port, deploring the fact that the coalition’s excessive clearance procedures have blocked the delivery of the new cranes that could restore the port’s offloading capacity; the new cranes destined for Hudaydah are currently being held in Dubai.

Journalist sentenced to death

On April 12, the state security court in Sana’a controlled by the Houthis sentenced 62-year-old journalist Yahya al-Jubaihi to death, for allegedly spying for the Saudi-led coalition. It is the first incidence of a journalist in Yemen being sentenced to capital punishment, with the trial taking place in a closed-door court and the defendant not having regular access to a lawyer during the trial. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and other rights groups condemned the death sentence. It should be noted that as of the end of April the Houthi-Saleh authorities were holding more than 12 journalists in a prolonged unlawful imprisonment, and some of whom are in severely poor health conditions and denied family visits.

Houthi-Saleh use of banned landmines

On April 20, Human Rights Watch issued a report highlighting the Houthi-Saleh forces’ use of banned antipersonnel landmines, which the HRW said have caused hundreds of civilian deaths and injuries, hindered the return of people who were displaced by fighting, and will continue to pose a threat to civilians long after the conflict ends. In terms of scale, since February 2016 operations by the Yemen Executive Mine Action Centre have removed 360,000 landmines and other explosive ordnance from areas across Yemen, with the UNDP stating that “it is imperative that clearance activities are scaled up rapidly, particularly in areas of return to provide a safe environment for IDPs to settle.”

“The Houthi-Saleh forces use of antipersonnel landmines violate the laws of war and individuals involved are committing war crimes,” Human Rights Watch said. “Houthi-Saleh forces have also used antivehicle mines indiscriminately in violation of the laws of war and failed to take adequate precautions to avoid civilian casualties.”

Economic & financial updates

Reconnection to SWIFT

In mid-April the Central Bank of Yemen (CBY) was reconnected to the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) network, technically reinstating the central bank’s capacity to send and receive international money transfers. The Sana’a-based CBY had been disconnected from SWIFT on November 9, 2016, following the Yemeni government’s decision to relocate the CBY headquarters from Sana’a to Aden two months earlier.

Connecting the Aden CBY to the SWIFT network has involved significant complications, according to sources close to the process that spoke with the Sana’a Center, with communication and oversight from the parent SWIFT company, based in Belgium, and the Aden CBY having to meet various compliance standards, hire engineers to work with its IT department, as well as installing and testing specialized SWIFT servers – all amidst a deteriorating security situation in Aden. These sources added that while reconnection to the SWIFT network was successfully completed in mid-April, there had been no financial transactions made through it as of the end of April due to the inability of central bank staff to operate the SWIFT connection.

In the later half of April a team of nine CBY employees were sent to Dubai for training in the operational and technical aspects of SWIFT. This training is likely to last until at least the end of May if not longer, with the CBY’s connection to SWIFT rendered unusable until the staff necessary to operate it return to Aden.

President Hadi announced at the end of February this year that Saudi Arabia had committed to depositing $2 billion at the CBY to help it stave off the imminent threat of the rapid depreciation of the Yemeni rial; while the Riyadh still has yet to publicly confirm such support, even if it were forthcoming, the ongoing inability of the Aden CBY to operate its SWIFT connection entails that the central bank would currently not be able to access these funds.

Food vouchers issued

On April 15, the so-called “Government of National Salvation” (GNS) in Sana’a – made up of Houthi and Saleh-affiliated officials – announced the implementation of a food voucher system for public and mixed sector employees. The new system, announced by the GNS’ Ministry of Industry and Trade, is intended to compensate for the GNS’ inability to pay the roughly one million government workers who live in Houthi-Saleh controlled areas, most of whom have been without a paycheck since September 2016 due to a severe public sector cash liquidity crisis. The vouchers – which will cover such basic foodstuffs as wheat, rice, cooking oils, milk powder and flour – will be redeemable at selected market suppliers who, according to the draft legislation, will be required to sell the goods at prevailing wholesale market rates.

A prominent Yemeni economist aware of the details of the voucher system told the Sana’a Center that the vouchers are slated to be worth roughly a third of each employee’s salary, with most of the rest of their monthly pay to be deposited in an account at Yemen Post, the national postal service. It should be noted, however, that due to the ongoing liquidity crisis employees will be barred from withdrawing these deposited funds. Additionally, given the GNS’ likely inability to provide merchants with cash when they attempt to redeem the voucher coupons they collect from customers, the Yemeni economist predicted that the voucher system would be effective for only a month or two, after which the effective value of the coupons would depreciate and merchants would offer goods at two prices – one for cash payments, and another for coupons.

Threats to public education

Among the impacts of the non-payment of civil servant wages is that three-quarters of the country’s teachers have not been paid in half a year, meaning some 4.5 million children may not finish the school year, according to UNICEF.

“At the moment we have more than 166,000 teachers in the country that have not received a salary since October last year. This is more or less 73% of the total number of teachers in the country,” UNICEF Representative in Yemen Mertixell Relano told a press conference in the capital Sana’a last month. “Those children that are not in school, they are at risk of being recruited (for military service), or the girls might be at risk of being married earlier.”

According to UNICEF, there are 7.3 million school-age children in Yemen, 2 million of whom are completely out of school, and another 2.3 million that need support to access education, while some 1,700 schools in the country have been rendered unfit for use through damage due to the war, or occupation by internally displaced people or armed groups.

Agricultural households struggling

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) also reported last month that of the some 1.5 million agriculturally dependant households in Yemen (roughly 60% of all households in the county), more than 800,000 are unable to control crop and livestock diseases. According to a Yemen Emergency Food Security and Nutrition Assessment released earlier this year, some 40% of agricultural households faced decreased cereal production in 2016, and almost half saw a drastic decline in livestock numbers, due to both disease and the distressed selling of household assets to cover food, medical and other family expenses. In response, FAO stated that livestock protection, through vaccinations and other treatments, was a key emergency response priority for 2017.

Importantly, agriculture is also the source of employment for roughly half of Yemen’s workforce, and while FAO is reporting better than normal rainfall through the past several months, the agency stated last month that agricultural livelihoods are still being put at risk: “As a result of the persistent conflict, almost all governorates are reporting shortages of agricultural inputs as well as high prices of inputs… Agricultural activities, particularly those related to irrigated crops, suffer from high fuel prices, increasing the share of rainfed crops. Many rural households rely on casual labour opportunities as a source of income. However, in most conflict situations, hired agricultural labour tends to be replaced by family labour in order to cope with the increased costs of production.”

In brief:

  • The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had, as of May 5, received 18% of the USD $2.1 billion it has appealed for to implement its humanitarian response plan for Yemen in 2017. On April 25, the UN held a High-Level Pledging Event co-hosted by the governments of Sweden and Switzerland in Geneva, where donors pledged USD $1.1 billion to help people in emergency need in Yemen. Importantly, however, UN officials are now urging donor countries to quickly convert their pledges into cash deposits to evade famine in Yemen.
  • In the month of April, 35 vessels applied for clearance from the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen (UNVIM); 30 requests for clearance were issued certification and the average time to issue clearance was 30 hours, an average of two hours less than the month before. A total of 611,052 metric tons (mt) of cargo was approved through the UNVIM in April, consisting of 272,666 mt of food, 244,575 mt of fuel and 93,811 mt of general cargo. This is a decrease by a total of 25,758 mt of cargo from the month before.

Yemen at the UN is a monthly report produced by the Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies to identify and assess UN-led efforts to resolve the crisis in Yemen. Through this analysis, Yemen at the UN aims to provide readers with an understanding of the international political context that accompanies developments on the ground. This month’s Yemen at the UN report is in partnership with Friedrich-Ebert- Yemen office.