Having been devastated by civil war since 2015, Yemen is currently the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. The country has been constantly dependent on international aid since the outbreak of war, with 80% of the population relying on aid according to the BBC.
The Houthi rebels however, who control large regions of the country, including the capital Sanaa, had declared that they would be imposing a 2% tax on all humanitarian aid. The presence of the Houthi rebel group has previously prevented and delayed humanitarian aid, and has threatened the work of humanitarian agencies in multiple instances. Further imposing levies on international aid would allow the rebels to gain control over what is one of the world’s largest humanitarian operations.
However, in a letter written on the 14 February to UNofficial, Mark Lowcock, the leader of the Houthi aid body confirmed that the tax will be dropped for the year 2020. This decision was made a day after a meeting was held in Brussels by aid agencies, where the statement was made that Yemen had reached breaking point, and warned that humanitarian aid would be reduced in areas where distribution was interrupted.
The conflict which divided the country is fought between the Houthi rebel group, who forced President Abdrabbuh Hadi out of power in 2014, and the government allied groups such as the UAE, Saudi Arabia and the US. The country was already one of the poorest Arab countries prior to the war, and the conflict has exacerbated poverty and dependence on aid. The UN had estimated civilian deaths at around 7,500 by September 2019, and both sides have been accused of committing serious war crimes.
Although the Houthi decision on Friday to relieve taxes on aid was seen as an ease of tensions, a series of air raids were carried out the following day by the Saudi-UAE coalition. The escalation in conflict has brought many humanitarian organisations to consider pulling out of Yemen, and the UN has condemned the US-backed coalition for the air raids which killed as many as 31 civilians on Saturday. The government forces attempted to justify the deaths as, ‘collateral damage’ during a ‘search and rescue operation.’ Five years have passed since the outbreak of war, and although the country is split into territories controlled by opposing sides, the poverty, fear and destruction they experience is rife under both occupations, and serious war crimes continue to be committed against civilians by both sides.