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Yemen: not much time to avert catastrophe

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*There has again been an increase in fighting along the western coast of Yemen since the beginning of the year. The situation of the civilian population is dire, and millions of people face starvation. Against this background, Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel on Thursday (16 March) met with UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed. Gabriel demanded that, “in view of the devastating humanitarian situation in Yemen, the parties to the conflict must urgently return to the negotiating table.” *

Severe famine looms

Due to the conflict, seven out of ten Yemenites currently rely on humanitarian aid to survive. However, because of sustained fighting and the fact that the infrastructure has been completely destroyed, and because considerable bureaucratic hurdles are hampering aid efforts, the urgently needed transport of food aid is being obstructed. This has created the threat of severe famine. “There is not much time to avert this catastrophe. I hope that the parties to the conflict know what is at stake,” the German Foreign Minister warned.

Parties to the conflict scheduled to meet in Berlin

High‑level representatives of the parties to the conflict are scheduled to meet this week in Berlin. They want to search for ways to revive the stalled peace process. The meeting is also intended to develop trust among the parties, so that compromises can be reached more easily at a later time. Support for the talks is being provided by the Federal Foreign Office, and they are being hosted by the Berghof Foundation, an organisation that promotes peace around the world. The meeting is part of a series of multi‑party dialogues, and it has been closely coordinated with the UN Special Envoy.

**Support for Cheikh Ahmed **

Cheikh Ahmed was appointed Special Envoy for Yemen by the UN Secretary‑General in 2015. The Mauritanian diplomat had previously led the UN’s ebola emergency response mission. Foreign Minister Gabriel commented on the meeting as follows: “We support the efforts of UN Special Envoy Cheikh Ahmed, who is engaged in talks with the parties to the conflict with a view to finding a solution to the conflict in Yemen.”

Germany is the third‑largest donor

Germany is the third‑largest bilateral donor of humanitarian aid to Yemen. In 2016 alone, the Federal Foreign Office made available more than 32 million euros to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population. More than one third of this aid went to the United Nations’ Yemen Humanitarian Pooled Fund, which channels resources to the aid projects of local NGOs. In view of the situation, the current level of aid is to be maintained in 2017.