War in Yemen Continues to Destroy the World's Poorest Country
August 18, 2016 Yara Bayoumy / Reuters & The Associated Press
The cost from damage to infrastructure and economic losses in Yemen's civil war is more than $14 billion so far, according to a confidential report seen by Reuters. The conflict has killed more than 9,000 people, displaced 2.4 million, and destroyed much of the already limited infrastructure in the Arab world's poorest country, where more than half the population is suffering from malnutrition.
Report: Civil War Costs Yemen
$14 Billion in Damage and Economic Losses Yara Bayoumy / Reuters
WASHINGTON (August 17, 2016) -- The cost from damage to infrastructure and economic losses in Yemen's civil war is more than $14 billion so far, according to a confidential report seen by Reuters that highlights the effort needed to rebuild the country, where more than half the population is suffering from malnutrition.
"The conflict has so far resulted in damage costs (still partial and incomplete) of almost $7 billion and economic losses (in nominal terms) of over $7.3 billion in relation to production and service delivery," said the May 6 joint report by the World Bank, United Nations, Islamic Development Bank and European Union.
The internationally recognized Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi is battling the Iran-allied Houthis in a bitter civil conflict, and is also facing the al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula militant group.
The 16-month civil war has killed more than 6,500 people, displaced more than 2.5 million and caused a humanitarian catastrophe in a country with a per capita gross domestic product the World Bank last estimated at only $1,097 in 2013.
The Preliminary Damage and Needs Assessment report is an internal working document that is not being publicly released.
"These preliminary findings are not only partial, but also evolving" because the conflict is ongoing, the report said. The assessment, it said, was conducted between late 2015 and early this year.
A survey by Yemen's education ministry cited by the report showed that of 1,671 schools in 20 governorates which suffered damage, 287 need major reconstruction, 544 were serving as shelters for internally displaced persons, and 33 were occupied by armed groups. Based on a sample of 143 schools, the estimated cost of the damage was $269 million.
Citing the Ministry of Public Health and Population, the report said 900 of 3,652 facilities providing vaccination services were not operating in early 2016, leaving 2.6 million children under 15 at risk of contracting measles.
In Taiz, Yemen's third-largest city, the public health system has nearly collapsed, with half the public hospitals damaged or inaccessible. "There has been a surge in civilian morbidity and mortality as an indirect consequence of the conflict," the report said.
The report could assess residential damage only in the cities of Sanaa, Aden, Taiz and Zinjibar, and data collection was cut off in Oct. 2015 -- only about seven months into the conflict. That data alone found an estimated $3.6 billion in damage.
The cost to reconstruct damaged energy facilities in the four cities was an estimated $139 million, most going to repairing damaged or destroyed power plants.
A shaky cease-fire between the government and the Houthis, who practice a variant of Shi'ite Islam, took effect in April and brought some respite from the war, which started when the rebels pushed the government into exile in March 2015. Peace talks broke down earlier this month, though, and Saudi-led air strikes on the Houthis who control the capital Sanaa have resumed.
The report said that immediate attention must be focused on restoring import financing, particularly for food and fuel, which is caught in a conflict between the Saudi-backed government and the central bank in rebel-controlled Sanaa.
The government asked international financial institutions to cut off the bank, alleging that it was misusing state funds. The bank, which provides foreign exchange for imports, has denied the allegations.
"As long as the conflict is ongoing, it's key to keep going the basic imports needed to avoid a humanitarian crisis. That is a very critical issue right now," the IMF's Yemen Mission Chief Albert Jaeger told Reuters. "The best the international community and donors can do is to find a way to get the government and the central bank to cooperate to get at least the humanitarian side of things going."
Air strikes by Saudi-led forces in Yemen that hit a school and a hospital are being investigated by a body set up by the coalition to look into civilian casualties, a spokesman said on Tuesday.
Ten children were killed when their school in Saada province was bombed on Saturday, and 14 people were killed by a strike on a hospital in neighboring Hajjah province on Monday.
HASN FAJ ATTAN, Yemen (August 15, 2016) -- Screams rang out through the hilltop village outside Yemen's capital after 10-year-old Youssef al-Salmi set off a bomb he had found in a field, perhaps thinking it was a toy.
He became the latest of several Yemeni civilians to be killed by unexploded ordnance from the country's ongoing civil war, which pits Saudi and US-backed government forces against Shiite Houthi rebels.
The conflict has killed more than 9,000 people, displaced 2.4 million, and destroyed much of the already limited infrastructure in the Arab world's poorest country. UN-backed peace talks held in Kuwait collapsed earlier this month.
Rights groups and UN agencies have expressed concern that even if the fighting is brought to an end, the country will still grapple with a brutal legacy of unexploded munitions, including bombs dropped by Saudi-led warplanes in and around the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, and in the Houthis' northern heartland.
They say most of the deaths to date have been caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes, and blame the United States and Britain for supplying weapons and providing logistical support for the bombings.
Amnesty International said its researchers found thousands of unexploded munitions in northern Yemen following a 10-day tour of the region earlier this year.
"The lives and livelihoods of civilians, including young children, continue to be on the line in Yemen," said Lama Fakih, an adviser at Amnesty. "They cannot live in safety until contaminated areas in and around their homes and fields are identified and cleared."
Amnesty said 16 Yemeni civilians, including nine children, were wounded or killed by cluster munitions between July 2015 and April 2016. Such munitions scatter small, explosive balls across a wide area.
In Yemen and in other conflict zones, children have been known to stumble upon undetonated balls or mistake them for toys, resulting in deaths long after the fighting has ended.
The July 20 blast that killed Youssef and wounded a 13-year-old friend took place inside Hasn Faj Attan village, which lies near a military base that housed a vast arsenal.
Saudi-led airstrikes on the base caused a series of powerful explosions in April 2015, blanketing the skies over the rebel-held capital with thick black smoke and smashing the windows of high-rise buildings.
Several mud-brick houses in Hasn Faj Attan were buried under a hail of rocks and explosives. More than 80 soldiers were killed, and at least 12 villagers were wounded.
Youssef's father, Nasser al-Salmi, said the warplanes came one after another, raining missiles and bombs over the entrance to the base. Another villager, Ahmed Garadi, who was struck in the head by a rock, recalled how "houses toppled and people screamed for help."
Yemen's ill-equipped demining agency began clearing work in April in the northern cities of Saada and Hajja but had to stop after three of its members were killed in an explosion, Amnesty said.
Some 40 trucks were sent to cart away explosives from in and around Hasn Faj Attan earlier this year. The UN's de-mining coordinator for Yemen, Ahmed Allawi, told The Associated Press that up to 7,800 pieces of unexploded munitions were retrieved from the area, including from Youssef's village.
The mine-clearers missed the small, metal ball that Youssef picked up and then smashed with a rock as his friends watched. The boy survived on life support for five days, but the doctors could not save him.
Associated Press writer Maggie Michael in Cairo contributed to this report.
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