UAE praised as a primary contributor of aid to Yemen
ICRC president thanks the country for helping to double its programmes in war-torn country, writes Mina Aldroubi
The president of the International Committee of the Red Cross has praised the UAE’s role in supporting humanitarian operations in war-ravaged Yemen.
“The UAE is in the core group of donors of ICRC, and we appreciate their contributions – in particular to our Yemen operations,” Peter Maurer said at the Emirates Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi.
“We hope that the UAE will expand for the future.”
The UN has listed Yemen as the world’s No 1 humanitarian crisis, with 17 million people there in need of food, and seven million of those at serious risk of famine.
More than 2,000 Yemenis have died in a cholera epidemic that now affects almost one million people.
The ICRC has doubled the number of aid programmes in Yemen over the past few months. It was a necessary increase, Mr Maurer said, because “only then will we be able to see more positive developments”.
The enormous growth in the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen was of great concern.
“This clearly is the result of war and destruction of health infrastructures, which today are at 50 per cent of their prewar capacities,” he said.
“In the past two weeks we have been able to stabilise the growth rate, but of course this is still the largest cholera epidemic in decades and therefore a big worry for us.”
He said that the Emirates Red Crescent had been a vital partner in regional humanitarian efforts.
“The Emirates Red Crescent is our first and foremost partner in the country,” the ICRC president said.
“We appreciate their efforts within the UAE, but also internationally, where in some places we work directly and indirectly with the UAE Red Crescent society.”
He praised the UAE for its continuous support for worldwide humanitarian operations and its development programmes in several countries, especially in the areas of health care and education.
“We also appreciate the fact that we are present here in the UAE, a place where humanitarian actions today are thought about, where people come together to address challenges and where international humanitarian law is taught.”
Speaking about the Syrian humanitarian crisis, Mr Maurer referred to the seventh round of peace talks that took place in Astana, the capital of Kazakhstan, in October.
“The Astana talks hold the promise of better access [to besieged areas to deliver aid and services],” he said.
“We have seen better access here and there, but we have also seen an intensification of warfare.”
Focusing on the ceasefire, the Astana talks were established to try to find a way to end the six-year civil war in Syria. A key issue of the more recent sessions has been the establishment and co-ordination of at least four war-free zones in Syria.
“Unfortunately, at the present moment we are not in a position to say safe areas are safe. They are not safe,” Mr Maurer said.
“We see that the war in Syria is still continuing in certain respects and in certain regions it is even intensifying, and therefore our concerns are still huge.”
While the ICRC appreciated the efforts being made in Astana, Mr Maurer hoped the political and diplomatic negotiations would “at a certain moment find traction on the ground, but it’s too early to say whether they will, while at the present time we unfortunately see further ongoing warfare”.
During his visit to Abu Dhabi Mr Maurer met Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation.
“The meetings helped to chart the way forward to cementing co-operation in areas of training and education. I am very happy and satisfied with how this kind of collaboration is progressing,” he said.
“I have been greatly encouraged by the response and positive feedback from Sheikh Mohammed as well as Sheikh Abdullah of ICRC’s activities.”
In the past two weeks we have stabilised the growth rate, but this is still the largest cholera epidemic in decades PETER MAURER ICRC president
ICRC president Peter Maurer at Emirates Diplomatic Academy in Abu Dhabi