The US designation of Houthi rebels in Yemen as “terrorists” may also hamper the flow of much-needed aid, according to the agencies.
The UN humanitarian chief will urge the United States to reverse its decision to declare the Houthi rebels in Yemen a “terrorist” group, warning that this designation will likely result in “large-scale famine on a scale we have not seen for almost 40 years ”. .
Mark Lowcock plans to make the call in a speech to the UN Security Council (UNSC) on Thursday.
On Sunday, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo declared the Iranian-backed Houthis a “foreign terrorist organization” and said the designation would take effect on January 19, President Donald Trump’s last full day before Joe Biden was not appointed president.
Aid organizations and senior Republicans have also warned that the move could have a devastating humanitarian effect on the conflict-ravaged country facing the risk of famine.
Lowcock said data shows that 16 million of Yemen’s 30 million people will go hungry this year.
“Already around 50,000 people are starving in what is essentially a small famine,” he said. “Five million more is just a step behind them.”
Noting that the “terrorist” designation prompted companies to withdraw from relations with Yemenis, Lowcock warned that the famine will not be prevented by the licenses that the United States has announced its intention to introduce so that the humanitarian aid and imports can continue to reach Yemen.
“What would stop it?” A reversal of the decision, ”said Lowcock, adding that Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, almost all bought through commercial channels, so aid shipments may not be enough to stave off hunger.
The American designation of the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization could be the straw that tips Yemen not only into a small famine, but a truly huge one.
– Mark Lowcock (@UN ReliefChief) January 13, 2021
“Aid agencies give people vouchers or money to buy commercially imported food in the market. Aid agencies cannot – they simply cannot – replace the commercial import system, ”he said.
War in Yemen erupted in late 2014 when the Houthis took over much of the country, including the capital, Sana’a.
The conflict escalated in March 2015 when Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates assembled a US-backed military coalition to try to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
What Saudi leaders believed to be swift military intervention has turned into a protracted conflict that has spread disease, destroyed much of the country’s infrastructure and pushed millions to the brink of starvation.
Both sides have been charged with war crimes in the fighting that has killed tens of thousands of people.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has also raised concerns over the US designation, saying it fears the move may have a “chilling effect” on providing life-saving aid to sick civilians. and hungry.
ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart said on Thursday the agency had urged states that impose such measures to consider “humanitarian exclusions” to mitigate any negative effects on populations and on impartial aid.
The statement was released on his return from the country after three ICRC staff were killed in an attack on Aden airport on December 30.