Qatar, UNHCR agree to rehabilitate thousands of Yemen refugees

The Gulf state and UN agency enter deal to provide shelter to over 26,000 Yemenis displaced by the four-year war.

    Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani attends the opening session of the Doha Forum [Noushad Thekkayil/EPA]
    Qatari Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani attends the opening session of the Doha Forum [Noushad Thekkayil/EPA]

    Qatar has signed an agreement with the United Nations to provide shelter to more than 26,000 displaced people from war-torn Yemen.

    The $3m deal was signed on Sunday between the Qatar Development Fund, Qatar Charity, and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) on the sidelines of the Doha Forum in the Gulf state's capital.

    A Qatar Development Fund official told Al Jazeera that the shelters will be located in Yemen and their construction will be supervised by the UNHCR.

    The UN has been negotiating for peace between Yemen's warring parties to end what it calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, which has killed 60,000 people and pushed a staggering eight million people - a number greater than the population of Switzerland - on the verge of famine.

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    The UNHCR says nearly two million Yemenis have fled to the neighbouring countries since the beginning of the conflict in 2014. An additional 280,000 refugees and asylum seekers languish in the country, mainly from the Horn of Africa. 

    Four new UN offices

    The deal to settle Yemeni refugees followed a host of partnerships Qatar signed with the UN earlier on Sunday in order to strengthen cooperation with the world body, including the establishment of four new UN offices in the country.

    A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by Qatar Fund for Development (QFFD) and UNHCR directed to support refugees and displaced persons.

    The understanding will further enhance the ongoing project between QFFD and UNHCR to ensure the effective role both parties have in providing international protection to refugees.

    Kelly T. Clements, deputy high commissioner for refugees, said in a statement that QFFD support comes at a time where the "world faces unprecedented levels of forced displacement" and "is crucial in helping us respond to humanitarian needs".

    QFFD signed another agreement with UNICEF worth $8m to support agency’s resources and to provide quality education as a basic right for children.

    "This generous contribution from the QFFD will help us reach children who are in the greatest need and at the greatest risk," said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF executive director, in a statement issued by QFFD.

    Another agreement was signed between United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) and QFFD, worth $16m, to finance the UN organisation's core sources.

    "Qatar funding to UNRWA is very important in order to ensure the sustainability of the agency’s effective role in easing the burden of life on Palestinian refugees," said Khalifa bin Jassim Al-Kuwari, QFFD’s director general.

    Qatar also committed $36m to UNDP in a multi-year contribution in addition to becoming a "launch partner" to Accelerator Labs in 60 developing countries. The Accelerator Lab, expected to launch in January 2019, aims to connect UNDP's global network “with a more agile, innovative capacity to support countries in their national development priorities".

    In addition, Doha signed an agreement with the UN Office for Counterterrorism and discussed the establishment of Doha International Center for Counterterrorism.

    The UN is also set to open a Doha Office for the International Organization for Migration (IOM), UNHCR, and the UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

    The agreements were signed by Qatar's Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general on the sidelines of the Doha Forum.

    Lolwah Al Khater, spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said the agreements underscore Qatar's strong relationship with the UN.

    "Qatar strongly believes in the power of multilateralism to advance agenda that serves all of humanity without discrimination against any sect. The UN through its incredible work embodies that multilateralism, and we are proud to be contributing to its success," said Al Khater.

    Noha Aboueldahab, visiting fellow at Brookings Doha Center, told Al Jazeera the moves were significant given the multiple humanitarian crises in the region.

    "Increased UN presence in Qatar is a very positive development as it can formalise some of these processes and hopefully streamline them and make them effective," Aboueldahab said.

    Additional reporting by Sultan Al Kaabi

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News