By Lisa Schlein
Aid agencies are urging the incoming Biden Administration to immediately revoke the designation of the Houthi rebel movement in Yemen as a foreign terrorist organization to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe.
The secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, calls the Trump administration’s last-minute terrorist designation of the Houthis, known officially as Ansar Allah, a reckless and destructive move.
“At the time when we were trying desperately to scale up our humanitarian work to avoid a famine of epic, biblical proportions, the worst famine potentially in our generation…the Trump Administration in its final hour sabotaged our scale-up,” Egeland said.
The Houthis control 70% of the country and are the de facto rulers of Yemen. They control the main port of Hodeidah, which imports 80% of the food, fuel, medicine and other goods coming into the country.
Egeland said designating the group as terrorists would prevent life-saving humanitarian aid from reaching Yemen’s millions of desperately needy people. He said humanitarian workers, who offer material support, would be branded as criminals and could end up in jail. Maintaining the sanctions, he warned, will have devastating consequences.
“It is the one place on Earth where millions of children’s lives are at stake because of this… Seventy thousand people are now in famine. Horrible photos of skeleton children are circulating … The figures 16 million on the verge of starvation, which is the one step before famine, is a very real figure,” he said.
Egeland said incoming U.S. President Joe Biden must make Yemen a top priority, and must reverse the disastrous, life-threatening sanctions on day one.
He said the action should be done ahead of the U.S. rejoining the Paris Climate Change agreement and World Health Organization. He said the lives of literally millions of people are at stake.