Clashes erupt in Yemen’s Hodeidah despite truce

The Saudi-led Arab coalition and Houthi militia last month agreed a cease-fire for Hodeidah, above, during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden. (AFP)
Updated 12 January 2019

Clashes erupt in Yemen’s Hodeidah despite truce

  • Artillery and machine-gun exchanges rocked the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day
  • UN officials say 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — are in need of aid

HODEIDAH: Clashes erupted between Houthi militia and government forces in Yemen’s flashpoint port city of Hodeidah on Saturday, dealing a new blow to a fragile truce, an AFP correspondent reported.
Artillery and machine-gun exchanges rocked the southern part of Hodeidah in early morning before tapering off later in day, the correspondent said.
The Houthi-held port city, which is a lifeline for the delivery of desperately needed humanitarian aid, was for months the main front line in the Yemeni conflict after government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an offensive to capture it in June.
But last month the warring parties agreed a cease-fire for Hodeidah during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden.
The United Nations has said the truce has largely held since it came into force on December 18 but there have been delays in the agreed pullback of the Houthis and government forces.
The Houthis control most of Hodeidah while government forces are deployed on its southern and eastern outskirts.
The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and unleashed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
UN aid officials say 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — are in need of aid and nearly 10 million are just one step away from famine.
UN aid coordinator Lise Grande visited Hodeidah on Friday and met local officials, the head of Yemen’s National Authority for the Administration and Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jaber Al-Razahi, said.
“The reason for the visit of UN humanitarian coordinator Lisa Grande to Hodeidah is to see the humanitarian situation ... and ensure the arrival of aid through the port,” Al-Razahi said.


UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

A Palestinian refugee holds a placard at a school belonging to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees (UNRWA) in the town of Sebline east of the southern Lebanese port of Saida, on March 12, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 22 October 2019

UN agency for Palestinian refugees on tenterhooks over probe

  • UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses

BRUSSELS: The UN agency for Palestinian refugees is waiting anxiously on the outcome this month of a probe into alleged mismanagement that has dented its already severely depleted funding, one of its top officials said Monday.
The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.
UNRWA’s director for West Bank operations Gwyn Lewis told AFP in Brussels: “We’re waiting with bated breath because it obviously has financial implications.”
She said the conclusions of the probe are expected to be delivered “around the end of October” to UN chief Antonio Guterres, who would then issue public and internal “follow-up steps.”
The timing is crucial as the agency’s three-year mandate is up for renewal this month, and money is tight.
UNRWA has been skating on very thin financial ice since last year, after US President Donald Trump decided to suspend, then yank entirely his country’s contribution to the agency’s budget, robbing it of its top donor.
Those woes were compounded by the allegations of abuse by the agency’s management, leading other key donors — the Netherlands and Switzerland — to snap shut their purses.
That has left the agency struggling to provide the schooling, medical and sanitary programs it runs for Palestinian refugees in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza.
According to a copy of an internal UN report obtained by AFP in July, senior management at UNRWA engaged in “sexual misconduct, nepotism, retaliation, discrimination and other abuses of authority, for personal gain.”

FASTFACT

The UN Relief and Works Agency hopes the results of the investigation will enable it to get past the scandal that has worsened a cash crunch threatening the school and health services it provides to 5 million Palestinians.

Lewis did not confirm those allegations, noting only “rumors” and leaks to the media.
“None of us have actually seen it,” she said of the report, adding: “Our sense is that it’s not about financial misappropriation or corruption, it’s linked to management and human resources issues.”
She did note that the agency’s deputy chief, Sandra Mitchell, had been replaced in August by an acting deputy commissioner-general tasked with strengthening human resources and financial oversight.
Lewis said she was in Brussels for two days of meetings with European Commission officials to shore up UNRWA’s mandate renewal and, importantly, to maintain funding.
Despite program cutbacks, the agency faces an $89 million shortfall for the rest of this year, she said, and “financial uncertainty” beyond that.
UNRWA’s budget for this year is $1.2 billion, with around 90 percent of that being linked to paying for the 30,000 staff it employees, most of them teachers, doctors and nurses. Making up for the pulled US funding was a “challenge,” she said.