Saudi Arabia, UAE ramp up support for Yemen

The total humanitarian support provided by the Kingdom to Yemen during the past four years amounted to more than $13 billion. (SPA)
Updated 13 September 2018

Saudi Arabia, UAE ramp up support for Yemen

  • The response had been ramped up to meet the most urgent needs of thousands of displaced families
  • The Iran-backed Houthis had been involved in killings, torture, abduction and the illegal detention of people including women and children

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE, whose aid contribution represents more than half of UN humanitarian targets, have scaled up their responses to the crisis in Yemen, said Mohammed Askar, Yemeni minister of human rights, on Wednesday.

The response had been ramped up to meet the most urgent needs of thousands of displaced families, especially because of the fighting in Hodeidah, the strategic port city through which 80 percent of food and aid are delivered into Yemen.

Askar gave an overview of the conditions of people in Yemen caused by the Iran-backed Houthi militias. He said that “Saudi Arabia and the UAE have provided half of the humanitarian response set by the UN Humanitarian Needs Document for 2018, which is estimated at $3 billion.”

The minister said: “Saudi Arabia also provided $2 billion as bank deposit to curb the collapse of the national currency and stimulate the economy of that strife-torn country.” 

The Kingdom had also responded to WHO and UNICEF by making available $66.7 million to combat cholera. “This is in addition to $60 million for power and water plants, and supplies,” he said.

Referring to other countries that have extended aid to Yemen; Askar said: “We do not forget the great humanitarian roles played by several nations, especially Kuwait and Sudan.” 

“Moreover, we are working closely with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR),” he added, while calling on all parties to ensure the physical safety of civilians and their freedom of movement.

He said that “our relationship with the office of the UNHCR focuses on exchange of information and reports, while we jointly seek to protect and promote human rights in Yemen.”

The UNHCR has opened an office in Aden and is working to build the capacity of Yemen’s National Commission to Investigate Human Rights Violations, enabling Yemeni personnel to attend training courses in Geneva and in Beirut.

The Yemeni Ministry of Human Rights facilitated the work of the UNHCR team in the liberated areas, he said. “The Yemeni ministry and the UNHCR have pledged to work together to strengthen links and enhance joint work in order to achieve the objectives which we both share.” 

The Iran-backed Houthi militias had launched a genocide in Yemen, further compounding the problems, he said.

The Iran-backed Houthis had been involved in killings, torture, abduction and the illegal detention of people including women and children. The number of detainees, who are still in the prisons of Houthi militants, exceedes 2,600, while a large number of men, women and children are either missing or were in secret prisons of the militants, he said. The Houthi militants have also killed more than 1,372 children and 814 women since the war broke out in Yemen in 2014.

Saudis head out as coronavirus lockdown eases

Updated 29 May 2020

Saudis head out as coronavirus lockdown eases

  • First day of phased reopening sees visitors flock to waterfronts and malls

JEDDAH/RIYADH: As the 24-hour-curfew period ended, residents of Saudi Arabia headed back outside on the first day of the government’s three-phase plan to transition back to normality after the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as people rushed to take advantage of the newly relaxed measures, streets quickly became crowded and several observers noticed that many were failing to observe social-distancing measures.

Prince Abdulrahman bin Mosaad tweeted: “For there to be traffic in the streets is natural after canceling the 24-hour curfew, but what’s abnormal and unbelievable is the amount of people underestimating the necessity of putting on a face mask and a pair of gloves and keeping a two-meter space between people crowding at stores. This is only the first day. Unfortunately, I don’t think Shawwal 29 (June 21) will be the day we go back to normal.”

In a follow-up tweet, Prince Abdulrahman reminded people that the pandemic does not have a cure or a vaccine yet, and wondered whether people would need to lose a loved one before they came to appreciate the severity of the situation.

University lecturer, Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani (@fattah53), agreed, tweeting: “Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. It’s very simple; don’t go out unless it’s necessary. If you absolutely have to, follow precautionary measures from wearing a mask to keeping an acceptable distance between you and others.”

Abdulaziz Al-Omar (@11a_alomar) also replied with suggestions. “It’s important to monitor and penalize facilities and shops that do not follow precautionary regulations, as well as fines against those who don’t wear a mask and don’t keep their distance from others,” he tweeted.

The hashtag #JeddahNow was quickly trending on Twitter in response to the number of people leaving their homes unnecessarily.

A number of users suggested that individuals neglecting social distancing and going out in public without a mask and gloves would be “more afraid of a SR10,000 fine than they are of the pandemic.”

However, many thought that people were overreacting to the traffic around the city’s corniche.

Sa’ad Mughram (@saad_mghrm) tweeted: “Don’t blame people for traffic. There are families that have been pressed together for three months in small apartments and reef houses. It’s their right to go out and see the sky on a short car ride.”

He added: “Overcrowding stores needs to be addressed, but things can be dealt with calmly, without overreacting and perfectionism from some.”

Sadly, not many understand the dangers of the virus, and what they could be doing to their loved ones. 

Abdulfattah Al-Qahtani , University lecturer

Some hailed the efforts made by several popular stores around the Kingdom that are enforcing social distancing, such as Madinah’s Starbucks, where a photo circulating on social media showed people lined up with the recommended space between them, demonstrating what was described as “classy behavior.”

Abdullah Al-Humaid, (@abn_humaid) commented: “It’s wonderful to see such awareness displayed in our society. These are people maintaining social distancing while wearing gloves and face masks.”

Meanwhile, many headed onto the streets of Riyadh looking to regain a sense of normality. “Of course, I went out. I took my mom and sister and drove to the nearest mall to run some errands,” 26-year-old Sarah Al-Jasser told Arab News.

However, Al-Jasser said she was unable to enter the shops inside the mall because of long queues. “I was surprised that people were out this early. We were at the mall by 9:30 a.m. and didn’t expect it to be this crowded,” she said.

By 2:30 p.m. most shops and malls were already closed and empty of customers and shopkeepers, abiding by the 3 p.m. curfew.

Rayed Mustafa, 33, told Arab News he believes the situation is still unsafe: “Just because the country is opening up doesn’t mean it’s safe to go out.”  However, that did not stop him from leaving  the house. “I pulled an all-nighter, put on my face mask and gloves and hit the streets at 6:30 a.m. to cruise the city.”

He added that he stayed in his car and was merely hoping to get some fresh air for his mental well-being. “I’ve been confined in a very small apartment for over a month,” he said. “I needed that change of scenery.” 

He said he made sure to abide by the safety and health measures put in place by the Ministry of Health, and refrained from mingling with people.

Mustafa was taken aback by the number of people he saw on the streets. 

“One of the main streets in Riyadh was filled to the brim — some celebrating, others going out for coffee,” he added.

Billboards have been placed around the Kingdom reminding people to comply with the recommended precautions in order to ensure their safety.