UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nations on Wednesday said it has reached agreement with Yemen's government and a Saudi-led military coalition on increasing the flow of badly needed goods like food and fuel to Yemen.
Even before it was engulfed in conflict this year, Yemen was the Arab world's poorest country and relied on imports for about 90 percent of its supplies. It is on the brink of famine as months of fighting have held up commercial imports and aid deliveries. A Saudi-led, U.S.-backed coalition has been launching airstrikes against Shiite Houthi rebels since March.
The U.N.'s regional humanitarian coordinator for the Yemen crisis, Amer Daoudi, confirmed through a spokeswoman that an agreement has been reached on a mechanism to verify and inspect both aid and commercial goods.
It is not yet clear when the mechanism, which will be based in the strategic southern city of Aden, will be operational because of funding and other issues.
The mechanism for commercial goods will only apply to ports that are not under government control. U.N. member states or shipping companies would have to notify the U.N. mechanism of all planned shipments of commercial goods to Yemen, and within 48 hours it would either clear shipments to proceed or flag them for inspection.
All inspections would be reported to the U.N. committee that monitors sanctions for Yemen.
The U.N. and aid groups have called repeatedly for easier aid access while warning that millions in Yemen face the prospect of starvation. The U.N. has said that while limited food aid is flowing in, fighting around major ports is stalling deliveries, and reaching the country's interior is proving difficult.
The western port city of Hodeida was hit with airstrikes last month. The U.N. has said all ports must be open.
Four out of five Yemenis need humanitarian assistance, and the U.N. says one in five needs it urgently.
Also Wednesday, the spokesman for the U.N. secretary-general, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters that Saudi Arabia has signed memoranda of understanding with three U.N. agencies for a total of $53.5 million. Saudi Arabia months ago pledged to fully fund a $274 million emergency U.N. appeal for Yemen, but discussions between the kingdom and the world body on the terms of the funding had long delayed the money.