LONDON: The United States is considering suspending aid efforts in northern Yemen next month unless Houthi interference in relief operations ceases immediately.
Yemen is at the center of the worlds biggest aid operation but the Iran backed militia that triggered the war when it seized the capital in 2014 has repeatedly hampered international relief efforts.
Addressing the UN Security Council Tuesday, the US ambassador to the UN Kelly Craft said the Houthi meddling has reached such a level that donors are unsure if their aid is getting through.
“Houthi interference now prevents the guarantee of assistance delivery in the areas they control,” she said.
“In light of these entirely avoidable circumstances donors are faced with a difficult dilemma of how to continue delivering aid while remaining responsive to tax payers.
“We may be forced to consider suspending or reducing our assistance in northern Yemen as early as March unless undue Houthi interference ceases immediately and access to vulnerable populations improves.”
The UN says the Houthis are trying to introduce a two percent tax for international aid organizations.
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Sir Mark Lowcock, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the Houthis have introduced more than 200 regulations on aid delivery, blocked staff and aid from reaching their destinations and failed to approve 40 percent of aid projects last year in the territory it controls.
“It is important to be clear that we have much more serious problems in the areas controlled by the Ansar Allah (Houthi) authorities,” Lowcock told the Security Council.
“The situation is unacceptable. Stopping the world’s largest aid operation would be fatal for millions of people.”
UN officials said this month they were considering scaling back operations in Houthi-controlled areas because the situation had deteriorated so dramatically.
“Humanitarians can no longer manage the risks associated with delivering assistance at the volume we currently are,” a senior UN official told Reuters
Last year the World Food Program suspended some food aid in Sanaa amid allegations the Houthis redirected aid from the people it was intended for.
The Houthis have refused to allow the agency to introduce a biometric data system to record who receives the aid.
Meanwhile, the UN’s main envoy to Yemen told the council that a sharp increase in violence threatened the confidence building measures aimed at bringing the conflict to an end.
“We’re witnessing in Yemen what we have long feared,” Martin Griffiths said. “I’ve briefed this council several times on signs of hope. But we’ve all been acutely aware that renewed violence could reverse the gains made and render peace more difficult.”
He urged the parties involved to set aside short-term military goals.
The conflict in Yemen has pitted the internationally recognized government, which controls the south, against the Houthi militants, which seized much of the north in 2014.
An Arab coalition, which includes Saudi Arabia, intervened in the conflict in 2015 to restore the government.