Saudi Arabia pledges $500m of aid to Yemen

Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, head of KSrelief and Saudi Arabia's foreign minister Faisal bin Farhan during the donors coonference. (KSrelief)
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Updated 03 June 2020

Saudi Arabia pledges $500m of aid to Yemen

  • $300 million will go to UN agencies and $200 million to KSrelief.

RIYADH: International donors at a Saudi-hosted UN conference on Tuesday promised $1.35 billion in new humanitarian aid for Yemen.

The Kingdom itself pledged an aid package worth $500 million, and Britain offered a new tranche of support worth $200 million.

“This targeted UK aid package will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of Yemenis, who now also face the threat of coronavirus,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said.

Germany also promised $140 million in assistance. The virtual conference took place as aid groups warned the COVID-19 pandemic could wreak havoc in Yemen after years of conflict and crippling funding shortages.

“We are in a race against time,” said UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “Aid agencies estimate they will need up to $2.41 billion to cover essential aid from June until December, including programs to counter COVID-19.”

Without the required funding, more than 30 out of 41 major UN programs in Yemen could close in the next few weeks, Guterres warned. “Tackling COVID-19 on top of the existing humanitarian emergency requires urgent action,” he said.

Yemen is already gripped by what the UN calls the worst humanitarian crisis, with tens of thousands killed, an estimated 4 million people displaced by war and tens of thousands afflicted by malnutrition and disease.

The UN says COVID-19 has probably already spread throughout most of Yemen, while the Yemeni government has officially recorded only a few hundred cases.

“COVID-19 has created new needs there, but it is just the latest challenge in an already deteriorating situation,” said Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief). “Yemen needs a lot of help, not least because of its weak health system.”

The Kingdom’s Foreign Minister, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, who led the Saudi presence at the conference, said Saudi Arabia was keen to support UN efforts to reach a sustainable political solution to the Yemeni crisis, to end the suffering of the Yemeni people and support humanitarian and economic developments to restore security and stability.

Guterres said death rates from COVID-19 in the southern city of Aden alone were among the highest in the world. “There are shortages of testing devices, oxygen, ambulances and basic protective equipment,” he said. “Even hospitals that are operational and equipped may not have a reliable electricity supply.”

The main reason for the shortage of funds in Yemen is obstruction by Iran-backed Houthi militias, who control the capital, Sanaa. The US decreased its aid to Yemen this year, because of interference by the Houthis.

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

Updated 11 July 2020

Saudi rural tourism recovers after months of forced isolation

  • Saudis turn to domestic traveling and flock to their nation’s cooler cities and rural areas

TAIF: As Saudi citizens turn to domestic tourism in the country’s summer resorts, adapting to the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, rural areas have become targeted by local tourists wishing to get away from the soaring temperatures in most of the Kingdom’s cities.

Visitors are now choosing cold Saudi cities instead of Europe, which they are accustomed to visiting, such as Taif, Al-Baha, and Abha.

COVID-19 has postponed all plans to travel abroad, and attention has now focused on domestic tourism amid strict health protocols in parks, gardens and recreational areas.

Walid Al-Hamidi, vice president of the Tourism Development Council, confirmed to Arab News that Asir, with its facilities and attractions, was ready to receive summer visitors from across the country.

He said that under the directives of Asir's governor, who supervises all activities and events directly and constantly, many committees had been formed to prepare a successful summer tourism season, to optimize the opportunity and allow people to enjoy the exceptional ambiance of Asir.

“A comprehensive tourism plan was set up two years ago, which resulted in a successful Al-Soudah Season with the support of Asir’s Investment Authority,” Al-Hamidi added.

He noted that Asir’s directives aimed this year to build an exceptional tourism model that meets optimal health standards in dealing with COVID-19.

The model is supported by the “Nashama Asir” team — consisting of 4,000 volunteers — who have been trained for months and have all the necessary skills to make the season successful. Their work will continue until the end of the pandemic and throughout the summer.

“Everyone is ready at public facilities, gardens and parks, to serve tourists,” he said, adding “tourists coming from all the over the Kingdom will be welcomed with smiles, enhanced services, and warm welcomes.”

Dr. Sami Al-Obaidi, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Taif, told Arab News that the tourism sector was the economic backbone of any country or city.

He said that Taif was considered one of the most important tourist cities, given its many attractions  that made it top of any list of places to visit in the Kingdom.

“Suspending travel abroad, and limiting tourism … due to the coronavirus pandemic, makes us, as officials and citizens in Taif, well placed for a beautiful and safe tourism season for Taif’s citizens and visitors,” said Al-Obaidi.

“Meetings are held around the clock, headed by Saad Al-Maimouni, the governor of Taif, with the participation of the relevant authorities.”

He expected all sectors, especially tourism, hospitality and a few other businesses in Taif, to recover to some extent during this season, especially now tourists have already started flocking to the region, with numbers set to increase over the coming weeks.