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Hope For Yemen: UN to Start Inspecting Import Shipments

On Tuesday May 3rd, the United Nations offered a glimmer of hope to struggling Yemeni citizens with a promise to boost commercial imports and enforce an arms embargo, according to news released by the world body. For the Yemeni people, this announcement is a long-awaited sign of impending relief; the UN first spoke of their plan to establish this procedure eight months ago, but funding issues stalled its progress. As late as October of last year, the United Nations was still working to raise $8 million to fund the Djibouti-based operation; fortunately, the European Union, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Britain, and the United States stepped in to provide financing.

The inspection plan is a reaction to the ongoing conflict between Houthi rebels and a Saudi Arabian-led coalition; the fighting, which has now lasted over a year (14 months) has dramatically reduced the amount of commercial shipments coming into Yemen—a dire issue given the fact that this isolated desert nation relies almost completely on foreign imports. Worsening the problem is Yemen's status as one of the poorest nations in the Middle East; over 80 percent of those living in Yemen need humanitarian aid.

The conflict, which has killed over 6,200 people (half of them civilians), centers around the Saudi-led coalition attempting to prevent Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh from seizing control of the country. Though many measures have been taken to contain the conflict, including a year-long arms embargo targeting the Houthi rebels and Saleh's troops, the fighting has raged on. On Sunday May 1st, peace talks (brokered by the UN) fell through after the Yemeni government suspended them owing to continued aggression from the Houthi movement and its armed allies. Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has stated that as of March, nearly half of Yemen's 22 provinces are teetering on the brink of famine.

According to a statement issued by U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric on May 3rd, "[The inspection plan] should provide fast and impartial clearance services for shipping companies transporting commercial imports and bilateral assistance to Yemeni ports outside of the authority of the Government of Yemen.” To accomplish this while ensuring that the arms embargo is enacted effectively, the United Nations will set up a verification and inspection mechanism, preventing arms from entering rebel-held ports. This mechanism promises far faster import processing than the plan previously in place to halt the flow of arms into rebel hands (port inspections performed by the Saudi-led coalition).

The inspection plan officially went into action on Monday, May 2nd.

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