Saudi king doubles Yemen aid pledge on first day of humanitarian pause

Friday 08/05/2015
Leading role in humanitarian and relief works

RIYADH - King Salman doubled Saudi Arabia's aid commitment to Yemen to $540 million on Wednesday, the first day of a humanitarian pause in a bombing campaign it has led against its neighbour.

"We announce that we are setting aside one billion riyals ($266 million) for aid and humanitarian operations... in addition to more than one billion riyals ($274 million) we had already pledged," the official Saudi Press Agency quoted the king as saying.

On April 18, the kingdom announced it would fund the entire $274 million sought by the United Nations in an appeal for emergency assistance to help victims of the war in Yemen.

The UN said the money would "meet the life-saving and protection needs of 7.5 million people affected" by a deepening humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

"Projects and partners have been identified for implementation of the grant but money has not been disbursed yet, so it is still a pledge," Jens Laerke, spokesman for the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, said on Tuesday.

Before the five-day ceasefire took effect at 2000 GMT on Tuesday, a Saudi-led coalition had carried out nearly seven weeks of air strikes against Iran-backed rebels and their allies who control much of the country.

Families have been struggling to access health care, water, food and fuel during the war which the UN says has killed more than 1,500 people.

UN agencies have prepared for a massive aid operation during the five-day humanitarian pause.

Distribution began on Wednesday of fuel whose scarcity had halted aid deliveries, officials said.

Salman's pledge was made as the kingdom inaugurated a facility which Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir last week said would be "a centre on its territory to be in charge of coordinating all humanitarian aid efforts" with the UN, donors and other relevant agencies.

The King Salman Centre for Relief and Humanitarian Works will reflect "the leading role of the kingdom in humanitarian and relief works" worldwide, the official Saudi Press Agency on Tuesday quoted the centre's supervisor, Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Rabiah, as saying.