When President Joe Biden appointed career diplomat Tim Lenderking as Special Envoy to Yemen earlier this year, he charged him with two mandates: to advance a durable resolution of the Yemen conflict and to take immediate action to mitigate the humanitarian crisis facing the country.
“Without one, you’re not going to get the other,” said Special Envoy Lenderking.
“You've got to get the parties, the combatants, to stop fighting because … the fighting prevents people from returning to their homes or prevents cultivation of fields in agriculture. It blocks and destroys key humanitarian arteries.”
Yemen’s humanitarian crisis is the result of over seven years of war that have led to the near collapse of the economy and basic services which were extremely fragile even before 2014. The war has decimated Yemen’s economy.
More than half the workforce is unemployed. Farming, manufacturing and the extraction of the country’s most lucrative exports, oil and natural gas, have been disrupted. Last year’s overall inflation rate stood at over 26 percent, but the five-year picture, particularly when it comes to food, is even more bleak. Between February 2016 and October 2020, wheat flour has gone up 133 percent, vegetable oil 96 percent and rice has soared 164 percent, pricing most Yemenis out of the market. Today, some 80 percent of Yemenis depend on international aid. While humanitarian assistance is preventing mass famine and saving lives, only a durable political resolution between Yemeni parties and an economic recovery process can reverse Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.
“In certain parts of the country, there is food on the shelves, but people don't have the money to buy it,” said Mr. Lenderking.
“Some of our efforts are very much focused on staving off the deterioration of the rial even further and making sure that civil servants who are working for the government of Yemen have the salaries that they need, that they deserve, in which they could use to increase their purchasing power.”
“Ultimately, the peace process in Yemen is built on the same thing that is driving the humanitarian response. It's the work of Yemenis who are committed to shaping a brighter future for their country. We must ensure they have the support of the international community to do so,” said Special Envoy Lenderking.
“Yemen does not have to be a forever war. This is one that can be resolved.”