RIYADH, (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia will step up aid to citizens who were displaced from areas bordering Yemen during heavy fighting with Yemeni Shi’ite rebels last year, the ministry of finance said on Tuesday.
The move was announced after Saudi newspapers carried reports of citizens in the relatively poor Jizan province complaining of hardship and poor housing conditions after they had to abandon their villages during the conflict last year.
Thousands of Saudis were displaced from the border after the army started a campaign in November against what it said were intrusions by Yemeni Shi’ite rebels who were accusing Riyadh of letting Yemeni troops use its territory to attack them.
At least 113 Saudi soldiers were killed in the fighting which ended with a truce in January.
The Yemeni government reached its own ceasefire deal with the rebels a month later, bringing to an end the sixth round of intermittent fighting since violence in northern Yemen first flared up in 2004.
The displaced families would get up to 70,000 riyals ($19,000) annually to buy food, housing and clothing, the finance ministry said on its website.
Up to 900 million riyals worth of aid have been given to the displaced since the start of the conflict last year, the ministry said.
Saudi Arabia’s southwestern province Jizan along the porous border with Yemen is one of the kingdom’s poorest, with some inhabitants relying on smuggling for their subsistence. Analysts say unemployment there is higher than last year’s national average of 10.5 percent.
Most displaced are living in hotels or a camp paid for by the government and have now been a given an extra month to find new housing beyond the original deadline in September, the ministry said.
Daily newspaper al-Watan quoted displaced people as saying they were struggling to find new places to live as rents were very high. In June, Saudi Arabia said it would allocate 6 billion riyals to build 6,000 houses for them.