Peace is Possible for Yemen

By Greg Ramm, Vice President, Humanitarian Response

When the President is inaugurated in January, 80 percent of people in Yemen—including 12 million children—will likely need urgent humanitarian aid. That is equivalent to more than all the residents of Florida struggling to survive. Yemeni suffering is the result of a deadly six-year conflict, multiple health crises, and a failing economy, constituting the world’s worst humanitarian emergency. COVID-19 has only exacerbated the crisis. The United States did not cause this conflict, but the Administration and Congress should take three immediate steps to stop the suffering and promote peace. 

  • First, suspend arms sales. The United States has sold billions in weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two of the principal parties to this conflict. This is despite clear evidence that U.S. weapons used in strikes in Yemen have killed children and other civilians. Congress has voted in a bipartisan manner to suspend arms sales and transfers to help reduce violence there, but these actions have been vetoed by the White House. As Yemen faces the threat of famine and COVID-19, now is the moment to redouble efforts. The U.S. Government should suspend weapons sales and transfers to any party to the conflict in Yemen, as long as a substantial risk remains that such arms could be used to commit serious violations of international humanitarian law. It should encourage allies to do the same.
  • Second, end the aid suspension. Humanitarian and development programs help babies who are dying of painful malnutrition, allow children to attend school, prevent health system collapse, and provide sanitation and hygiene services in a country where nearly 70% of people do not have access to clean water. However, reduced funding jeopardizes these critical programs. Tens of thousands of children in Yemen are missing out on life-saving treatment for severe malnutrition due to funding shortfalls, including the U.S. government’s aid suspension in northern Yemen. While aid diversion should not be tolerated, a unilateral, wide-reaching aid suspension is not the answer, particularly in the middle of a pandemic. Humanitarian organizations, including Save the Children, have demonstrated that they operate in a principled manner that ensures aid reaches children and families who need it. The United States should pause only specific aid programs that cannot be delivered in accordance with humanitarian principles.
  • Lastly, press for peace. Suspending arms sales and ending the aid suspension are vitally important, but the lasting solution for Yemen is peace. The U.S. should use all diplomatic means to support the ongoing peace process and reflect the concerns of women and children.  Parties to the conflict should protect civilians, stabilize the economy, and allow humanitarian and commercial goods to reach Yemen. The U.S. should also refrain from taking any other policy steps that might politicize the delivery of humanitarian assistance or complicate efforts to bring the parties to the negotiating table.

The willful blindness of the international community to solving this crisis, when the problems and solutions are clearly in front of us, is completely unjustified. The United States must do everything in its power to protect and support Yemeni children and families, hold perpetrators of harm to account, and help set Yemen on the road to recovery.

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