On Jan. 22, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other members of the coalition supporting the internationally recognized government of Yemen unveiled what they described as the Yemen Comprehensive Humanitarian Operations (YCHO). This plan aims to increase the flow of humanitarian aid and economic assistance to all regions of Yemen and to the millions of people who have been impacted by the violence that began in late 2014, when the Iranian-supported Houthi militants took up arms against the legitimate government.The plan is an expansion of various Saudi-led efforts that have sought to support the government of Yemen, alleviate the suffering of the people and help bring an end to the violence. This multilateral effort — which is being carried out in close cooperation and coordination with the government, the United Nations and humanitarian aid organizations inside Yemen — must be contrasted with the way the Houthis have operated during this conflict.
The international media and aid organizations have been stressing the dire humanitarian situation in Yemen for quite some time and understandably so. However, the claim that “all sides” of the conflict are equally responsible for the current state of affairs paints a distorted picture of what has transpired over the past three years, and how the different parties have conducted themselves. The Houthis have routinely violated international laws, norms and conventions and have consistently, as a matter of policy, worked to undermine all multilateral efforts to end this crisis. Unlike the legitimate government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and the Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia, who have worked within the parameters of international law and multilateral frameworks, the Houthis have resorted to unilateralism and to working outside the agreed upon domestic and international institutions.
Not only have they taken up arms against the internationally recognized government, but they have also disregarded the will of the international community. UN Security Council Resolution 2216, which was passed by 14 votes to none in early 2015, called on the Houthis to lay down their weapons and withdraw from the areas they have occupied by force. In addition, they have recruited child soldiers, used landmines extensively and used food and even medicine as weapons of war. Only Daesh and Al-Qaeda are guilty of the same tactics.
A statement that was issued last week outlining the objectives of the new humanitarian plan said that it aims to “enhance the flow and delivery of humanitarian aid and commercial supplies, including fuel, medical supplies and food to all Yemenis.” While much of the aid is intended to address immediate humanitarian needs, including food and medicine, other elements of the YCHO are aimed at helping Yemen on what will likely be a long road toward economic recovery and reconstruction.
The plan is an expansion of various Saudi-led efforts that have sought to support the government of Yemen, alleviate the suffering of the people and help bring an end to the violence.
Much of the aid — $1.5 billion — will go directly to the United Nations and its affiliates, which have a presence on the ground and have conducted relief operations in Yemen. It is these organizations that fully understand where the needs and gaps are. Other aid will be given to the Yemeni government to help it to begin to improve its capacity to deliver important services.
Speaking at a press conference in Riyadh that also included representatives from the Arab coalition, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the director of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre said the sum total of economic assistance that the Kingdom has provided to Yemen since May 2015 — including humanitarian aid, support to the Central Bank and services provided to more than one million Yemenis living in Saudi Arabia — now exceeds $10 billion.
Prior to the plan’s unveiling, Saudi authorities held extensive consultations with a number of international humanitarian aid organizations, including the World Food Program, World Health Organization, UNICEF, the International Committee of the Red Cross, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The YCHO was also informed by the United Nations Humanitarian Response Plan for 2018 and is in large measure an effort to respond to its appeal. It is consistent with a multilateral approach that seeks coordination and cooperation with all stakeholders and which allows for oversight and accountability. The Houthis, on the other hand, have made it clear that, while they are fairly adept at destruction and creating humanitarian crises, they feel no responsibility whatsoever to join any multilateral effort that alleviates the humanitarian crisis or that seeks to end the conflict.
Wars are devastating by definition, and civil wars tend to be the most brutal. The fact that the Houthi militants and their allies have chosen to use food and medicine as weapons of war has taken a heavy toll on the people of Yemen. The Houthis have also attacked civilian centers and have used civilian institutions, including hospitals and schools, to hide weapons and fighters. This is in addition to their use of landmines and child soldiers. While Houthi leaders continue to show complete disregard to the suffering they have imposed on the people of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and other coalition members are doing all they can to support the government and to help bring peace and prosperity. The people of Yemen deserve nothing less.
Fahad Nazer is a political consultant to the Embassy of Saudi Arabia in Washington and an International Fellow at the National Council on US Arab Relations. He does not represent or speak on behalf of either organization.