Humanitarian organizations working in crisis-hit Yemen have called on the US to end support for Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates’ bloody conflict in the Middle Eastern state, according to a jointly released open letter.
The joint statement was issued by OXFAM, Care, International Rescue Committee, Save the Children, and The Norwegian Refugee Council, five of the biggest international aid organizations operating in Yemen.
The five agencies are calling on the US to halt its military support to Saudi Arabia and the UAE and warn if American support continues, it will bear responsibility for the resulting famine.
The agencies jointly assert that 14 million people are at risk of starvation in the country, backing up a UN estimate, unless the warring parties “change course immediately.”
“By providing such extensive military and diplomatic support for one side of the conflict, the United States is deepening and prolonging a crisis that has immediate and severe consequences for Yemen, and civilians are paying the price,” reads the statement.
It goes on to “plead” with the US to cease “all military support for the Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen in order to save millions of lives” and to “back up its recent call for a cessation of hostilities with genuine diplomatic pressure.”
Peace talks planned
Talks that are hoped will help end the conflict in Yemen are due to take place in Sweden in the next few weeks, US Secretary of Defense James Mattis said last week.
He said that both the Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi had agreed to attend, but experts have cautioned that there’s no guarantee Saudi Arabia will take the steps needed for that to happen.
The groups claim that continued military support would be a stain on the US’ conscience.
“It pains us to write these words, but we cannot escape the truth: if it does not cease its military support for the Saudi-UAE coalition, the United States, too, will bear responsibility for what may be the largest famine in decades.”
Tens of thousands killed
The conflict of nearly four years — between the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels backed by Iran — has killed around 57,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a crisis mapping project.
The child protection agency Save the Children says that, since the conflict started, an estimated 85,000 children under 5 may have died from extreme hunger or disease.
The UN has put the death toll at 10,000, but that estimate has not been updated for years, during which the country has edged to the brink of starvation in what the UN describes as possibly the worst famine in 100 years.
The conflict, which began as a civil war after the ouster of a strongman leader, gathered force when Saudi Arabia and allies entered the war to counter what they saw as Iranian influence. The Gulf coalition received logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France, which have also been selling weapons to Saudi Arabia.