8 Million Yemenis Will Starve without Increase in Humanitarian Funding, and End to Saudi-Led War
Feb. 18, 2022 (EIRNS)—In a Feb. 15 appearance before the UN Security Council, the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg, and UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Relief Martin Griffiths reported that during the month of January, nearly two-thirds of major UN aid programs for Yemen had either been scaled back or shut down completely. They warned that 8 million people will likely lose all humanitarian aid in March unless urgent funds are delivered. Two days earlier, David Beasley, Executive Director of the World Food Program (WFP) tweeted “EMERGENCY: It is a countdown to catastrophe in Yemen. When we’re out of $, people don’t eat. That’s why 8M receive half rations now. W/out urgent funds, WFP will be forced to do the unthinkable & fully cut rations for millions. Bottom line: these cuts will be a death sentence.”
Instead of a human response to this and other emergencies—Afghanistan, Haiti, Yemen, etc.—Congress and the Biden administration are hotly debating whether to reinstate the designation of the Houthis as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO), as requested by the United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.). Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo labeled the Houthis as a FTO in January 2021, which Biden then revoked as soon as he took office. Biden himself said January 10, “We are taking a close look internally with the U.S. government to determine what would best serve our national security interests; what would best serve our desire to be a partner to Saudi Arabia, to the U.A.E., to other countries that are threatened with Houthi attacks.”
There is no unanimous support for this within the administration. Foreign Policy reported Feb. 15 that Brett McGurk, the National Security Council’s Coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa is leading the drive for it, but is getting pushback from top UN officials, USAID, some State Department officials and other private importers who oppose this on grounds that it will cut off food, fuel and other urgently needed supplies that will save lives. An FTO designation would basically criminalize delivering food to Yemenis who live in Houthi-controlled territories—60% of the country’s population. Anyone who does business with the Houthis could be hit with U.S. sanctions. Issuing humanitarian exemptions for aid groups would be meaningless, as a UN confidential memo points out, since 85% of Yemen’s food supplies come from commercial importers. “Yemenis need commercial imports to survive. Aid agencies cannot replace commercial imports” the UN memo stated. Humanitarian exemptions cannot stave off “a massive humanitarian calamity” in Yemen, the memo warned.
The large Yemeni importer, the Fahem Group, warned the UN in a letter that “the inevitable and immediate consequences of any designation will be that they will cease all trade with ourselves. Cutting commercial imports to Yemen risks bringing famine and death to the Yemeni people who are already facing a grave humanitarian crisis.” The group also said the U.S. hadn’t bothered to really understand the impact that the FTO designation would have.