Mar 13, 2021 - World

U.S. to resume aid to Yemen as famine looms

Girls who were displaced due to the ongoing war carry jerry cans to collect water at an internally displaced camp. Photo: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images

The U.S. will restore full humanitarian assistance funding to areas of rebel-held northern Yemen to help millions on the brink of famine, the State Department announced on Friday.

Why it matters: "Fighting and massive displacement of people, crippling fuel shortages and rising food prices have 50,000 Yemenis already caught up in famine and 5 million more a step away from it, the United Nations says," per AP.

  • Roughly 400,000 children in the country under age 5 are at risk of dying from malnutrition, according to U.N. projections.

Context: Friday’s announcement comes almost a year after the Trump administration halted some aid to the country, claiming that Houthis were diverting the foreign assistance for themselves.

  • The renewed U.S. humanitarian support comes with additional monitoring and measures to ensure the rebels do not interfere with the aid, a senior official for humanitarian assistance at the U.S. AID told AP.

What they're saying: “The United States supports the free flow of fuel, food, and other essential goods into Yemen," State Department spokesperson Ned Price said Friday. "However, doing so requires not only that goods pass smoothly through ports, but also that they are allowed to pass through the country freely, including through areas under Houthi control.”

  • Tim Lenderking, U.N. special envoy for Yemen, expressed concern that the Houthi rebels were blocking fuel deliveries to a main port and "focusing on fighting to capture more territory," AP writes.
  • "Tragically, and somewhat confusingly for me, it appears that the Houthis are prioritizing a military campaign to seize central Marib province," Lenderking added.

Flashback: The civil war in Yemen began in 2014 when Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanaa, and territory in the north. Saudi Arabia in 2015 tried to force the rebels out through an unsuccessful air strike.

What to watch: The Biden administration aims to revive U.S. diplomatic efforts to end the nation's conflict, reversing previous administrations’ support for the Saudi-led military offensive that sought to roll back the Iran-allied Houthi rebels.

  • So far, "The rebels have shown no sign of relenting despite Biden’s diplomatic overtures, adding to tensions between the U.S. and its strategic partner Saudi Arabia," AP writes.
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