Eighteen months ago, a conflict between Yemen’s elected Sunni government and the Houthi opposition, allied with elements loyal to the country’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, escalated into a civil war. Subsequently, at the request of the elected Yemeni government, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched military air strikes against the Houthi rebels.
And, as is usual in armed conflict, it is the civilian population that suffers the most. Since the conflict broke out in March of last year, some 6500 people have been killed, about half of them civilians. At the same time, more than 3.1 million Yemenis have been displaced and more than 80 percent of the country—or 21 million people—are in need of humanitarian assistance.
“The numbers don’t begin to capture the true depth of the tragedy, but they are nevertheless staggering,” said Secretary of State John Kerry at a recent press conference. “Food shortages have driven prices up 60 percent since last March, and they have brought the country to the brink of famine.”
The Yemeni people need help and they need it now. But unfortunately, donations are slow in coming, said Secretary of State Kerry. “To date, the international response to this crisis has fallen short of filling the gap between the supplies that are available and those that are required.”
To help fill that gap, the United States, already the largest donor of aid to Yemen, will contribute another $189 million in urgently needed humanitarian assistance. The new funding will go toward additional food and nutrition assistance, emergency health care, hygiene kits and psychosocial support. It will also help improve access to drinking water and sanitation.Some of the money will also go toward providing food and shelter for Yemeni refugees in the Horn of Africa.
“We strongly urge other countries in and outside the region to expand their contributions as well,” said Secretary of State Kerry. “Every party has an obligation to allow the unfettered flow of humanitarian assistance to Yemenis in all parts of the country. That is necessary to save lives, and it is also mandated under international law, and it is the right thing to do.”