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Yemen to become world’s poorest country if war continues, UN says

79 percent of the population living under the poverty line

DUBAI: War-ravaged Yemen is on course to become the world’s poorest country if the conflict persists, the United Nations said in a report. “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,” according to the United Nations Development Program report, published Wednesday. Because of the war, poverty in Yemen has jumped from 47 percent of the population in 2014 to a projected 75 percent by the end of 2019.

Yemen, long the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, plunged into war after Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014. A Saudi-led military coalition launched a blistering offensive months later to prop up the internationally-recognized government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against the Iran-aligned insurgents. The fighting has since killed tens of thousands of people, most of them civilians, and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

It has also displaced millions and left more than two thirds of the population in need of aid. The UN has previously described Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. “Not only has the war made Yemen the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, it has plunged it into a harrowing development crisis too,” UNDP Yemen’s resident representative, Auke Lootsma, said in a statement on Wednesday. “The ongoing crisis is threatening to make Yemen’s population the poorest in the world — a title the already suffering country cannot afford.”

Power-sharing talks
Yemen’s internationally recognized government and southern separatists are holding indirect negotiations and are close to reaching a power-sharing agreement, sources from both sides said. The two camps have been for weeks in indirect and discreet talks in Saudi Arabia’s western city of Jeddah with the kingdom’s mediation, an official from the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) told AFP.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said there has been “a lot of progress” in the past couple of days. A Yemeni government source confirmed that talks between the two parties have been ongoing. In August, fighting between the two camps – both of which are battling Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels – opened a new front in the country’s complex war. But sources from both sides told AFP on Monday that they are close to reaching a power-sharing deal.

“The agreement would stipulate that the government return to Aden and that the Security Belt Forces be responsible for security under the supervision of the Saudis,” a source informed about the negotiations said. The source also said that the deal would include “the participation of the STC in government”. The Security Belt Forces – dominated by the secessionist STC – in August took control of the southern city of Aden, which has served as the government’s base since it was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Houthi rebels in 2014.

The clashes between separatists and government forces – who for years fought on the same side against the Houthis – have raised fears that the country could break apart entirely. The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 as the Houthi rebels closed in on Aden prompting Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee into Saudi exile. The conflict has since killed tens of thousands of people – most of them civilians – and driven millions more to the brink of famine in what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.- Agencies

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