A report by the UN Development Programme found that 79 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line, with 65 per cent "extremely poor". The country now has no prospect for development. Houthi rebels propose a new prisoner exchange, a positive step towards the easing of tensions.
Sana'a (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Years of brutal war, which has triggered the most serious humanitarian crisis since the Second World War, will make Yemen the poorest country in the world if it goes on, this according to a UN report.
Released on Wednesday, the study says, "If fighting continues through 2022, Yemen will rank the poorest country in the world, with 79 percent of the population living under the poverty line and 65 percent classified as extremely poor”.
Already the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemen plunged into war after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaʽa in late 2014. As a result, poverty jumped from 47 per cent in 2014 to a projected 75 per cent by the end of 2019.
Local divisions turned into a proxy war with a Saudi-led coalition intervening in March 2015 on the side of the local government against the rebels backed by Iran. This has displaced a million people and killed more than 90,000, including large numbers of civilians.
Years of war have triggered what the United Nations has called "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world", with about 24 million Yemenis (80 per cent of the population) in need of humanitarian assistance.
The war also saw some 2,500 child soldiers involved in fighting, and aggravated the practice of child brides with half of all Yemeni girls married off before the age of 15.
"Not only has the war made Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, it has plunged it into a harrowing development crisis too," said Auke Lootsma, the UN Development Programme Yemen's resident representative. "The ongoing crisis is threating to make Yemen's population the poorest in the world – a title the already suffering country cannot afford.”
Against this backdrop, there is a glimpse of hope about possible talks between Houthi rebels and the Saudi-backed, internationally-recognised government.
Yesterday the pro-Iran militia proposed a new exchange involving some 2,000 prisoners, after almost 300 people, including some Saudi citizens, were released earlier this month. For some analysts and experts, this is the most important gesture by the Houtis in favour of easing tensions with their enemies.
“We told the local mediators that we are ready to implement a prisoner exchange within one week. We are waiting for the other side to respond,” said Abdul Qader al-Murtada, head of the Houthis’ prisoner affairs committee.
There was no immediate response from the Yemeni government, but unofficially, some sources say the step goes in the right direction.