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Mobile hospitals for disaster area in Yemen

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In principle, the Netherlands will contribute to sending mobile hospitals to areas of Yemen affected by heavy flooding.' These were development minister Bert Koenders' remarks at the end of a three-day working visit to Yemen. Mr Koenders made the decision following his conversation with President Saleh.

The authorities still don't know the full extent of the damage in Hadramaut and Al-Mahrah provinces because part of the region is not easily accessible. It is however clear that 120 people are either dead or missing and that thousands of houses, roads and bridges have been destroyed. School buildings and hospitals have also been badly damaged. In response to the disaster the Gulf states have promised emergency aid. 'This aid must be given quickly,' said Mr Koenders. 'The EU countries' efforts will be mainly focused on reconstruction.'

In Yemen Mr Koenders visited Dutch-funded programmes in the education, healthcare and water sectors. 'Yemen is an example of effective development cooperation,' he said. Positive results have been achieved in the fields of education and water. Increasing numbers of girls are attending school and one million people have gained access to clean drinking water thanks to Dutch aid. In his discussions with the Yemeni government, Mr Koenders did urge that more attention be devoted to health care. The Netherlands also signed an agreement aimed at reducing maternal and child mortality, one of the UN Millennium Development Goals, with €21 million earmarked over the next five years.

According to the minister, investing in Yemen is in our own interest. 'The combination of population growth, water scarcity, depleted oil reserves and high food prices represents an enormous risk to Yemen's stability. The chance of growing political instability and terrorist movements is significant. Yemen's government values cooperation with the Netherlands enormously. The Netherlands is a bridge builder and in the current climate our partnership in the areas of water, family planning, education, democratisation and human rights is essential.'

Mr Koenders expressed his appreciation to the Yemeni government regarding the reception of refugees from the Horn of Africa. This year 20,000 Somalis have risked the crossing to Yemen. At the UN's request the Netherlands has made extra funds available for providing aid to Somali refugees.

In his meeting with President Saleh, Mr Koenders raised the question of a man in Yemen who has been sentenced to death. The president promised that he would ask the judiciary to review the case. In a meeting with the minister for human rights, Mr Koenders also drew attention to the effects of female circumcision and the need to raise the marriageable age of girls to eighteen.