UN officials fear US terrorist designation will contribute to famine prospect in Yemen
Senior UN officials have expressed concern over the potential impact of the decision by the United States to designate Yemen’s Ansar Allah, more commonly known as the Houthi movement, a terrorist group, the Security Council heard on Thursday.UN News | Updated: 15-01-2021 00:27 IST | Created: 15-01-2021 00:27 IST
In his briefing to the online meeting, UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths said Yemen was going through dark times following a deadly attack last month on its newly-formed Cabinet, and with millions facing potential famine, but emphasized peace is still possible.
Griffiths to #UNSC: "On 30 December, a vicious attack targeted the Yemeni cabinet at #Aden airport and killed and injured dozens of civilians. I condemn this attack in the strongest terms possible and offer my sincere condolences for those who lost their lives."— @OSE_Yemen (@OSE_Yemen) January 14, 2021
Mr. Griffiths condemned the 30 December attack at the airport in Aden, which targeted the Government officials who had just arrived from Saudi Arabia. Dozens of civilians, aid workers and a journalist were also killed.
“The attack cast a dark shadow over what should have been a moment of hope in the efforts to achieve peace in Yemen. The formation of the Cabinet and its return to Aden was a major milestone for the Riyadh Agreement and for the stability of state institutions, the economy, and the peace process”, he said.
‘Chilling effect’ on peace efforts
“We fear in my mission that there will be inevitably a chilling effect on my efforts to bring the parties together. We all hope to have absolute clarity on far-reaching exemptions to be able to carry out our duties”, he said.
Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Some 16 million people will go hungry this year, and 50,000 are already essentially starving to death, amid a shortfall in aid. Preventing a massive famine is the most urgent priority, the UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Coordinator told ambassadors.
Yemenis stockpiling food
He explained that humanitarian agencies provide food vouchers or cash to needy Yemenis so they can shop at markets.
“Aid agencies cannot, they simply cannot, replace the commercial import system,” he stressed. “What this means is that what the commercial importers do is the single biggest determinant of life and death in Yemen.”
“Some suppliers, banks, insurers and shippers are ringing up their Yemeni partners and saying they now plan to walk away from Yemen altogether”, he said. “They say the risks are too high. They fear being accidentally or otherwise caught up in US regulatory action which would put them out of business or into jail.”
Although the US plans to introduce licences so that some aid and imports can continue, the relief chief said further details will not be available until 19 January, the day the designation takes force.
Reverse designation, or face catastrophe
The head of the UN World Food Programme, David Beasley, gave a blunt assessment of the prospects, putting aside his prepared remarks to speak “heart-to-heart”.
“We are struggling now without the designation. With the designation, it’s going to be catastrophic. It literally is going to be a death sentence to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of innocent people in Yemen,” he said.
“I’m very grateful for that”, he said. “But this designation, it needs to be re-assessed, it needs to be re-evaluated, and, quite frankly, it needs to be reversed.”
The WFP chief called for Gulf States “to pick up the humanitarian financial tab for this problem in Yemen”, and urged the Council and world leaders to apply pressure on the warring parties to end their fighting.
“I can assure you that Mark Lowcock and I will be before you pretty soon talking about other countries,” he said. “And if we can’t solve this one - this is man-made completely - shame on us."
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