Saudi Arabia is expected to announce a multi-billion dollar aid package for Yemen, which it says will “alleviate the suffering” by opening land, sea and air routes into the war-torn country.
Since March 2015, Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of nine Arab countries in airstrikes against Yemeni rebels and their allies.
The aid money, around $1.5bn, will be distributed through humanitarian agencies and in co-ordination with the United Nations.
A further $2bn will be given to the Central Bank of Yemen to promote economic stabilisation of millions will be set aside to improve the country’s ports.
Seventeen safe-passage corridors will be opened up into the country to help transport aid internally and an air bridge will ferry multiple flights of aid in each day – the first flights are expected to start later this week.
“The Coalition is placing its military resources at the disposal of these broad-ranging humanitarian operations, protecting the supply routes through air, sea and land with the logistical and technical capacity of the armed forces of the Coalition member states,” said a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition.
“We are backing a professionally planned and detailed humanitarian mission with military power and precision to guarantee that the humanitarian aid reaches the people who need it to lift their suffering.”
The announcement will be seen as an attempt by Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman to reframe his country’s global image in face of increasing opposition. Saudi Arabia has been internationally condemned for its military action in Yemen.
The British government has also been criticised for continuing to allow arms exports to Saudi Arabia – journalists and aid agencies have found evidence that UK-made weapons were used in attacks on schools and hospitals.
Campaigners have called on Downing Street to cancel an RAF training mission in Saudi Arabia. On Friday the German government announced it would stop supplying weapons to any country involved in the conflict.
The conflict has killed almost 10,000 people and left more than two million displaced. The UN says Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with about eight million people on the brink of famine, a cholera epidemic that has infected one million people, and economic collapse in what was already one of the region’s poorest countries.
The country has been split into three factions since the civil war began in 2015 – the Iranian-back Houthis govern much of the west including the capital Sanaa, the Saudi-backed government forces controlling much of the centre whilst al Qaeda still has a significant pockets of control.
The conflict is seen as a proxy war between Riyadh and Tehran with neither side willing to concede ground. A number of ballistic missiles have been fired from Houthi-controlled Yemen into Saudi Arabia in recent weeks – Riyadh stepped up airstrikes as a result.