While Yemen witnessed military escalation, adding extra challenges to humanitarian crises in 2021, analysts predict that the war-torn country may face a political challenge in 2022.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency, Ali al-Dahab, a Yemeni researcher and military affairs analyst, predicted that his country will witness more military operations in 2022 causing more complications to the current situation.
He said that military operations may “stop at the borders between the northern and southern governorates, generating a new conflict between the northern and southern parts of the country”.
“This may push the local warring actors to re-shape their alliances according to the new facts on the ground”, he said.
He said that in the new situation the legitimate government in Yemen may seek lesser dependence on the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and may rethink to focus on seeking a local solution.
Predicting the emergence of a political challenge in 2022, Dahab said the existence of any political vacuum inside the internationally recognized government will further complicate the seven-year-old war in Yemen.
“A shift in the international positions towards the conflict in Yemen may occur during the year 2022, including the amendment of UN Security Council Resolution 2216, or issuing a new resolution,” he said.
According to a UNICEF report released in December last year, protracted armed conflict has left 70% of the population in Yemen, including 11.3 million children, in need of humanitarian assistance.
The report further said that the situation has severely impacted the health and nutrition of children, with 2.3 million children acutely malnourished and another 400,000 moderately malnourished.
Food security remains a challenge
Food insecurity remains a key challenge, as the UN’s World Food Program (WFP) has sought to reduce food assistance from January, due to lack of funding from donors. The UN body has warned that these cuts will “push more people into starvation”.
In a statement, the WFP said it is running out of funds to provide food aid for 13 million Yemenis. With reduced food assistance, it will be able to distribute food to only 8 million people, leaving another 5 million people vulnerable to starvation.
"Every time we reduce the amount of food, we know that more people who are already hungry and food insecure will join the ranks of the millions who are starving,” said Corinne Fleischer, the WFP regional director for the Middle East and North Africa.
In 2022, the situation is expected to deteriorate further.
According to the UN Humanitarian Response in 2022, Yemen requires $3.85 billion to assist 20.7 million needy people. This plan may face a shortage of funds as the 2021 plan received only $2.68 billion against the proposed $3.85 billion.
The first day of 2022 witnessed a new armed conflict as the forces loyal to the legitimate government marched and regained areas in the Shabwa governorate, the center of the country.
Awadh al-Awlaki, governor of Shabwa, said on Saturday that the government forces re-controlled Usaylan district, west of the city, which remained under Houthi militias' rule for three months.
As the Iran-backed Houthi rebels are continuing with their longest offensive on Marib city since February 2021, their plan to seize control of the government’s last stronghold in the north has not succeeded.
“Even with the support from Iran and Hezbollah, Houthis were unable to seize the city. Military operations will not succeed in imposing Houthi control over Marib,” said Dahab.
Lately, Saudi Finance Minister Mohammad al-Jadaan had announced to reduce military aid by 10.2%, which may affect the military support to its local alliance in Yemen.
The Saudi military spending on its forces inside Yemen in 2020 was more than 201 billion riyals ($53.5 billion), and about 190 billion riyals ($50 billion) in 2021.
But Dahab said that this cut will not have any effect on the war in Yemen, as Saudi Arabia has a separate budget to support its allies in the country, which is not reflected in the state budget.
“Yemen directly affects the national security of Saudi Arabia, especially with the increasing Iranian support for the Houthis,” he argued.
UN envoy to work for de-escalation
Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Yemen Hans Grundberg has been calling the warring parties to immediately de-escalate. In a statement on Dec. 28, he said the escalation was undermining the prospect of reaching a sustainable political settlement to end the conflict.
He said violations of international humanitarian and human rights law “cannot continue with impunity”.
“Airstrikes on Sanaa have resulted in the loss of civilian lives and damaged civilian infrastructure and residential areas. The continued offensive on Marib and the continued missile attacks on the governorate are also resulting in civilian casualties, damaging civilian objects and causing mass displacement,” Grundberg said.
Yemen has been engulfed by violence and instability since 2014, when Iran-aligned Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital Sanaa. The Saudi-led coalition is attempting to reinstate the Yemeni government.
The military conflict has caused one of the world’s worst man-made humanitarian crises, with nearly 80% or about 30 million requiring humanitarian assistance and protection. More than 13 million people are in danger of starvation, according to UN estimates.