A high-level meeting was held yesterday at the Riyadh headquarters of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre (KSrelief) between Mr. Mark Lowcock, the Head of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), and Dr. Abdullah Al Rabeeah, the Supervisor General of KSrelief. The meeting covered the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Yemen and ways in which KSrelief and the UN are addressing the needs of Yemenis on the ground. A number of other OCHA officials and KSrelief staff were also in attendance.
During the meeting, the officials discussed ways to enhance cooperation between KSrelief and the UN to help even more people in need of humanitarian assistance in countries affected by conflicts and natural disasters. Dr. Al Rabeeah and Mr. Lowcock also spoke about ways to improve coordination between regional and international organizations to deliver aid more efficiently to targeted beneficiaries. Lastly, they discussed the importance of strengthening the vital strategic partnership between KSrelief and UN agencies, particularly OCHA.
Following the meeting, Dr. Al Rabeeah and Mr. Lowcock signed an executive contract for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s pledge last September of USD 500 million in additional funding for the 2019 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP).
In Mr. Lowcock’s subsequent press statement, he stated that he was “absolutely delighted to be here in Riyadh again. We’ve had excellent discussions with the Supervisor General, Dr. Al Rabeeah, as we always do.
“The world’s largest humanitarian response operation coordinated by the UN is in Yemen, and the biggest financier and our biggest supporter for that response this year is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Every month, the UN organizations are reaching 13 million Yemeni people with food assistance. We have been able to stave off a major cholera problem, immunize huge numbers of children, keep more children in school and sustain the water and sanitation systems at a better level. None of these would’ve been possible without the Kingdom’s support.
“I am impressed how KSrelief is going from strength to strength. Some of the things that KSrelief does are now global world leading practices, like actually the agreement we have for our collaboration in Yemen. Over a relatively short period, just in five years, it is remarkable what an enormous contribution KSrelief has made. The partnership is very valuable to me.
“This year, we are trying to raise four billion dollars for our appeal to reach over 13,000,000 people a month with help. The first eight months of this year were financed, yet the resources are now mostly exhausted. We are in the phase where without the near assistance we’ve had from the Kingdom in New York last September, when Dr. Al Rabeeah handed me the check, we would have been closing programs. Thus, money from the Kingdom is keeping thirteen million people alive.”
Regarding the problem of aid diversion, Mr. Lowcock said,” Aid diversion unfortunately is a real risk in areas where humanitarian requirements arise from a conflict. We have multiple means of ensuring that help reaches the in-need people. We have independent third-party monitors, who are not associated with the implementing organization, to call or approach people independently to find out if they received the help they need. This year, 95% of people confirmed receiving the help. However, sometimes a problem arises such as what the WFP had earlier in 2019. We have zero tolerance for what happened, and we suspended the program for a while.”
Mr. Lowcock also revealed that the condition of pre-famine no longer exists in Yemen anymore. “This is a great achievement,” he said, “because millions of people were just a step away from starvation during the pre-famine situation. There is a technical classification of that in the international standards called Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, or (IPC). Earlier this year and at the end of last year, a quarter-million people were in the highest level of that classification, which is (IPC 5). We’ve been able to deal with that problem, yet there’s still millions of people in the (IPC 4) category; but they have been saved. The (IPC 4) group is the focus of most of the assistance this year, and the program has been successful in reaching them.
“So far, we have avoided the worst only because we’ve been generously supported by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia through KSrelief.”