Yemen’s humanitarian crisis continued to escalate on the days approaching a United Nations-planned ceasefire, which was to take effect on Friday, July 10 at 23:59 local time and last until the end of Ramadan on July 17. Since late March 2015, when fighting broke out, the people of Yemen began to experience ever-deteriorating humanitarian conditions.

According to UN News Centre, “In the past three months alone, some 3,000 Yemenis have been killed, half of them civilians, and 14,000 others injured. Over a million people have had to flee their homes and 21 million need immediate help, close to 13 million people are unable to meet their food needs, 15 million people have no healthcare and outbreaks of dengue and malaria are raging unchecked.”

Unfortunately, the planned week-long ceasefire lasted only hours before Arab coalition-led airstrikes and fighting broke out once again, ending the UN-brokered truce. No side, neither the Houthis nor the Arab coalition forces, took responsibility for having broken the agreement.

UN Spokesperson Stephane Dujarric expressed the vital importance of a legitimate ceasefire: “it is imperative and urgent that humanitarian aid can reach all vulnerable people of Yemen unimpeded and through an unconditional humanitarian pause.”

After the failed ceasefire, Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations emergency relief coordinator, called upon all parties to attempt to once more put a pause to the conflict in order to access those in need and to provide people with proper humanitarian aid.

Nevertheless, UN agencies and other organizations have seen breakthroughs in aid and success in accessing those in need of humanitarian assistance through constant persistence. On July 14, 2015, the World Health Organization reported that it delivered supplies to Aden, which included “46.4 metric tonnes of medicines, medical supplies, and water and sanitation supplies for more than 84,000 beneficiaries in eight districts of Aden governorate”—an area which suffered a rise in dengue fever and malaria as a result of the conflict’s limiting access to healthcare.

The WHO also managed to dispense bed nets to over 9,000 households and provide residual spray materials and equipment, along with house-to-house spraying conducted by trained staff.

Subsequently, UN News Centre reports that the “WHO has distributed a total of more than 175 metric tonnes of medicines and medical supplies and more than 500,000 litres of fuel to maintain the functionality of main hospitals, vaccine stores, ambulances, national laboratories, kidney and oncology centres, and health centres in 13 governorates, reaching a total of almost five million people, including 700,000 internally displaced persons and 140,000 children under the age of five.”

Furthermore, as fighting escalated in Aden, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced what could only be described as “a major breakthrough”: the WFP’s first ship docked in the Al-Buraiqa port in the city of Aden, bringing with it 3,000 metric tonnes of food—enough to sustain 180,000 people for a month—and relief for the many food-insecure Yemenis, totalling at about 13 million people.

As the conflict rages on and the people of Yemen continue to suffer in ruin as a result of war, their survival lies in the hands of international aid organizations, which, even through war-ravaged times, are committed to their mission to aid those most in need, wherever they may be.

Jaime Longoria

Sources: Al Jazeera, UN News Centre 1, UN News Centre 2, UN News Centre 3
Photo: DW

Since President Obama’s announcement of his nomination of a new USAID Chief to replace Rajiv Shah, the name Gayle Smith has been echoed throughout political websites, blogs and news media platforms. With the conversation focused on Gayle Smith, many debate whether she is the prime candidate to head the world’s largest bilateral aid organization.

Gayle Smith is no stranger to development circles. As an African regional expert and former senior leader of 6 years for the National Security Council, Smith has addressed a record setting number of humanitarian crises.

Among her accomplishments is her oversight of the Open Government Partnership, a corruption-fighting initiative encouraging transparency among world governments as well as the empowerment of their citizens. She also oversaw the creation of Power Africa, an aid program fostering connections between African energy firms to allow electricity access to some of the continent’s 6 million who are without power.

Home to the Central African Republic, who has the world’s lowest economic growth rate of negative 36 percent, Africa looks to be a region in need of special attention. A USAID leader specializing in African development might just be the key. Smith has already pronounced herself a proponent of aid to Africa in her prioritization of Power Africa, and could be a valuable asset to the advancement of the numerous countries struggling to keep poverty rates at bay while stimulating economic growth.

Before working alongside President Obama as part of the National Security Council, Smith co-founded the Enough Project in 2006, an organization working to stop crimes against humanity and end genocide in some of the world’s most dangerous regions. The Enough Project first obtains information on the ground, then determines the best solution and mobilizes Washington and the American public to promote policies that work toward a better world. Smith has had an evident history not only of addressing the world’s atrocities, but of working through political leaders to become agents of change in the international arena; a task that is not always easy with regard to issues of genocide and poverty.

“I want somebody who knows all the players, who knows all the levers of power, who’s familiar with them,” Howard Berman, former congressional representative for California commented.

For those seeking a new player who knows the ropes, optimism is in the air. Smith has already been recognized as a development ‘insider’. Jim Kolbe, former congressional representative serving Arizona stated, “Few people know development as Gayle Smith does, and fewer still understand the intricacies of the spaghetti bowl that makes up our whole aid/development system.”

With Smith’s demonstrated knowledge of the inner-workings of the world of aid organizations and development agencies, many are hoping she will be able to continue to steer USAID on the track of reform while promoting a more flexible decision-making process.

Ritu Sharma, co-founder of Women Thrive Worldwide, is confident that Smith is the right person to succeed Shah. She believes that Smith even has enough clout to change some of USAID’s most stubborn patterns. Sharma stated, “A big problem with our aid is that there’s so little flexibility. When the train’s going in the wrong direction, [we] can’t change tracks.”

Given Smith’s past experience and insider knowledge of the system coupled with the leverage she holds, one thing we do know for certain is that if confirmed, she could be a highly influential leader of USAID with the power to not only support a number of recent humanitarian needs, but also to promote critical reform within the organization.

– Amy Russo

Sources: The Hill,, Enough Project, Devex
Photo: Flickr