SEATTLE, Washington — On September 16, 2020, 55 House Democrats submitted a letter to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, urging the Trump administration to restore aid in Yemen. Currently, 80% of Yemen’s population is dependent on foreign aid. With the compounding detriments of a prolonged proxy war, ongoing famine and now COVID-19, the country needs international support and assistance now more than ever.
History of US Aid to Yemen
USAID has contributed to developmental and humanitarian assistance in Yemen since 1975. The U.S. has worked with international and local partners to help strengthen Yemen’s social and economic institutions. Additionally, the assistance fosters a durable path to recovery that involves women, youth, private sectors and civil society. Since the 2019 fiscal year, the U.S. Government has provided more than $1.1 billion in humanitarian aid, which includes the additional emergency aid of $225 million implemented in May of 2020. This funding aims to achieve the following objectives:
- Fund the emergency food operation of the World Food Programme (WFP) in Southern Yemen.
- Reduce aid operations in Northern Yemen due to obstruction by the Houthis hindering WFP’s services.
- Enable the WFP to reach more than 8 million hungry people throughout Yemen each month.
Cuts to Aid in Yemen
Despite these relief efforts, fear over Houthi rebels seizing control of aid distribution is ostensibly stronger than the principle of assisting Yemenis based on increasing need. In addition to Houthi interference, the U.S.’s backing of the Saudi coalition in Yemen has created fear over the potential legal jeopardizing of U.S. officials. In March, The Trump administration was therefore compelled to cut $73 million in annual aid to Yemen. These funding cuts have forced U.N. agencies to close or halt 75% of programs. Significant programs and shortfalls in funding include:
- The World Food Program (WFP) in need of an additional $1.4 billion.
- UNICEF (U.N. Children’s Fund) in need of an additional $235 million.
- The World Health Organization in need of an additional $240.2 million.
As a result of curtailed aid in the country, NGO affiliates in Northern Yemen have also been unable to sufficiently fund basic operational costs and treatment for malnutrition and cholera.
Congressional Action to Restore Aid in Yemen
In attempts to counter these worsening devastations, U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-22), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Tom Malinowski (NJ- 07) and Eliot Engel (NY-16) have mobilized 49 representatives to sign a letter urging the restoration of aid in Yemen. In addition to addressing the deteriorating economic and political turmoil that Yemen is experiencing, the letter outlines a framework that suggests how Congress should approach the crisis in Yemen. Key points of this framework include:
- Restore the $73 million in suspended U.S. assistance.
- Request that gulf allies (Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E.) and the international community restore humanitarian funding to Yemen.
- Support U.N. access to the abandoned oil tanker off of the Yemeni coast.
- Enhance diplomacy between the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council (STC).
The House’s unwavering commitment and leadership is a crucial step forward in cultivating support from both parties and the State Department. This is a necessary measure to ensure long-term peace, stability and well-being for the people of Yemen.
– Joy Arkeh