UNITED NATIONS (PA) – The UN chief and senior officials on Thursday urged the United States to reverse its decision to declare Iran-backed Yemen rebels a terrorist group to prevent massive famine and dead in the conflict-torn Arab nation – but the Trump administration in its final days stood by its action.
Deputy U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills told the Security Council that the United States has listened to warnings about the humanitarian impact of the terrorist designation and will take action to reduce the impact on shipments of aid and commercial imports.
“But we believe this step is the right way to send the right signal if we want the political process to move forward,” he said.
In 2014, Houthi rebels invaded the capital, Sana’a, and much of northern Yemen, pushing the government into exile. A US-backed and Saudi-led coalition stepped in the following year to try to restore the internationally recognized government, but years of UN efforts to get both sides to agree to a ceasefire. the fire and to start peace negotiations were unsuccessful.
The conflict has been disastrous for Yemen, the poorest country in the Arab world, killing more than 112,000 people, creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and destroying infrastructure from roads and hospitals to water and electricity networks. .
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday declared the Houthis a “foreign terrorist organization.” The designation takes effect January 19, President Donald Trump’s last full day before Joe Biden is appointed president.
UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock warned the Security Council that the US designation would likely result in “famine on a scale that we have not seen in nearly 40 years.”
Data shows that 16 million of Yemen’s 30 million people will go hungry this year, he said. “Already, around 50,000 people are starving. … 5 million more are just behind them.
Lowcock said Yemen imports 90% of its food, almost all bought through commercial channels, so aid shipments may not be enough to stave off hunger.
Noting that the designation already sees companies pulling out of Yemen, Lowcock warned that the famine will not be prevented by the measures the United States has pledged to introduce so that humanitarian aid and imports can continue to reach the Yemen.
World Food Program executive director David Beasley told the council that the Nobel Peace Prize-winning agency was forced to cut the number of Yemenis receiving aid from 13 million to 9 million, and then cut back half the rations due to lack of funding.
From February 1, “we will have to reduce the rations to 25%” because the money is running out, he added.
Beasley predicted that the US action, coupled with the funding crisis, will create “a catastrophe” and leave 24 million of the 30 million Yemenis “struggling to eat” and obtain fuel and medicine.
“In 2020, the United States turned to WFP with $ 3.75 billion in support and I am very grateful for that,” he said. “But this designation – it needs to be reassessed, it needs to be reassessed, and frankly it needs to be reversed.”
Beasley said WFP needs $ 860 million to avert famine in Yemen for the next six months, and “we don’t even have half of it.”
He said the Arab Gulf states – especially Saudi Arabia – “must take on the humanitarian financial side for this problem.” If they don’t, he warned, donors will take money from other countries where it is desperately needed, “which means we’re going to have famine in so many other countries.”
Martin Griffiths, the United Nations special envoy for Yemen, supported Lowcock’s assessment that the American designation “would contribute to famine in Yemen and should therefore be revoked.”
Further, he said, “we fear that there will inevitably be a chilling effect on my efforts to bring the parties closer together.”
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres supported calls by Lowcock, Beasley and Griffiths for the United States to reconsider their designation, underscoring their “very passionate” and detailed remarks on the consequences for Yemenis.
Politically, Griffiths condemned the Dec. 30 missile attack on Aden civilian airport targeting the newly formed cabinet, an attack that killed more than 25 people. He said the internationally recognized government of Yemen had concluded that the Houthis were “behind the attack” – a charge the rebels denied.
British Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council that the UK “considers it very likely that the Houthis are responsible for this cowardly and cowardly attack.”
“Only they had the means, the motive and the opportunity for this clear and deplorable attempt to destabilize the newly formed Yemeni government,” she said.
Griffiths expressed “his solidarity with the new government, which has demonstrated its determination to remain in Aden despite the security risks to fulfill its duties towards the Yemeni people”.