US pledges an additional $165m in Yemen aid

US special envoy Tim Lenderking says Houthis' obstructionist efforts only further suffering

A displaced Yemeni woman receives emergency food on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen. EPA
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The US on Monday announced an additional $165 million in humanitarian aid for Yemen, as the war-ravaged country continues to face what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Yemen's conflict flared in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa, prompting a Saudi-led intervention to prop up the internationally recognised government the following year.

“The US is announcing today $165m in additional humanitarian assistance for Yemen,” Tim Lenderking, US special envoy for Yemen, told reporters.

“We believe that taking immediate steps to mitigate the humanitarian crisis and save lives can contribute to progress on the peace process,” Mr Lenderking told a virtual press conference.

Fighting in Yemen has killed tens of thousands, displaced millions and left some 80 per cent of Yemenis dependent on aid.

Five million Yemenis are on the brink of famine, and some 50,000 people live in famine-like conditions — the first time such critical levels of hunger have been reached in two years, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) reported.

The UN has said that famine could become part of Yemen's “reality” this year.

“The US can't do this alone,” Mr Lenderking said. “Other donors, particularly regional donors, must step up their contributions.”

A donor conference this year raised $1.7 billion in aid for the country — only half of its target.

Sarah Charles, the USAID assistant administrator for humanitarian assistance, said the money would help provide the WFP with continued emergency food assistance.

The new money comes on top of humanitarian assistance the US had “already been providing, including emergency food aid, treatment and prevention for malnutrition, basic necessities, such as hygiene and shelter supplies for displaced families, rehabilitation of water tanks and pipes,” she said.

Ms Charles stressed the need for cash incentives paid directly to the Yemeni people and noted that fuel, which is often stockpiled, may never reach the people it is supposed to help.

Mr Lenderking also said the Houthis' inaction and continued isolation is leading to pointless death and destruction.

“The Houthis' single-minded focus on the offensive has undermined UN efforts to reach a comprehensive ceasefire, putting millions of people at risk and poses a grave threat to the humanitarian situation. They are not winning,” he said, even though the rebels continue to make battlefield gains.

The US envoy to Yemen said an international consensus on resolving the conflict continues to grow, with regional actors like Oman taking greater steps. He also praised Saudi Arabia’s announcement supporting an immediate and comprehensive nationwide ceasefire.

“This stronger, more united regional push for peace is making a difference,” Mr Lenderking said.

“Saudi Arabia’s contributions through the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Centre is one example, but we need more in terms of negotiating a unilateral ceasefire.”

According to State Department Spokesman Ned Price, Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke on Monday with the Foreign Minister of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud.

The two discussed Riyadh's support for a comprehensive ceasefire in Yemen and the need for immediate steps to mitigate Yemen’s humanitarian crisis.

Updated: August 09, 2021, 10:11 PM