At a wind-swept camp for those displaced by Yemen’s war, a young Yemeni woman named Leemi, who supports her child and eight others, gratefully accepted aid from Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia says it has spent nearly a billion dollars in aid to Yemen and plans with its partners to spend another $1.5 billion. “They are our neighbors,” said Abdullah Al-Wadei, the assistant director of medical and environmental assistance at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center. “They are human beings first.”
To speed relief, the Saudis have run some 20 aid flights with American C-130 military transport planes into Marib, about 115 kilometers east of Sanaa. The aid has included rice, flour, sugar, salt, oil, beans and other foodstuffs, as well as blankets, tents, carpets and other material for those in need, said Fahad al-Osemy, the director of urgent aid at the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).
“There’s different people here because there’s more safety in Marib,” al-Osemy said. “You have people coming from Sanaa, Dhamar, and they need more than anyone” as they’ve been forced from their homes.
The Saudis also provide food for Houthi-controlled territory in unmarked boxes that get distributed by local partners, he said.
From May 2015 until this January, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center says it has spent $854 million on aid to Yemen, much of it on health care and food. In January, the Kingdom announced the coalition will give another $1.5 billion in new humanitarian aid funding for distribution across United Nations agencies and other relief organizations.
Medical care for wounded soldiers backing the internationally recognized government and civilians also remains a priority, Saudi officials said. At a Saudi-funded hospital in Marib, workers make prosthetics for those who have lost limbs in the conflict, their patients evenly split between soldiers and civilians.
“The injuries are to the women, the children, the old men and the military,” said Haida Ali Al-Nasseri, a 26-year-old woman who works at the hospital’s prosthetic department. “Everyone is coming.”
Nearby, a 24-year-old soldier for Yemen’s government who gave his name as Hamas waited for a prosthetic for his left foot. He said he lost it to a Houthi land mine near Sanaa. Asked about the conflict, he thought for a moment and said: “We don’t need this war, but they kicked us out of our home.”
Makeshift tent camps have sprung up throughout Marib, home to some of Yemen’s 2 million people displaced by the war. Some 112 “spontaneous settlements” are in Marib province alone, about 35 percent of all those throughout Yemen, according to the UN refugee agency, UNHCR.