CHICAGO: The Houthi militia intercepting and using the humanitarian aid meant for Yemeni citizens remains a significant concern for the US, State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday.
Secretary of State Anthony Blinken participated in the Yemen Donors Conference last week where the US pledged an additional $190 million in support to the people of Yemen and Price wants to make sure the funds reach the intended beneficiaries.
“The US supports the free flow of fuel, food, and other essential goods into Yemen,” Price said during a press briefing. “However, doing so requires that goods are allowed to pass through the country freely, including through areas under Houthi control.”
The Iranian-backed Houthi militia continues to engage in terrorist attacks and its attempts to divert foreign aid have added to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen.
“Unfortunately, we know that the Houthis continue to impede that flow, including diverting money that was intended for civil service salaries. That is in direct violation of their obligations under an UN-brokered agreement,” Price said.
“As a result, civil servants are not getting paid and therefore lack funds to purchase what food is available. Houthi diversion of fuel imports is just one of the many ways they are exacerbating the humanitarian crisis for the Yemeni population under their control.”
Price said Washington on Friday restored full humanitarian assistance to areas in northern Yemen, a result of US President Joe Biden revoking the terrorist designation for the rebels. Aid groups say they have no choice but to deal with the Houthis, who control much of the country.
At a high-level pledging event for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen held in Washington on March 1, Blinken detailed how the US increased its funding support to more than $350 million. In total, Blinken told delegates that America has provided more than $3.4 billion in aid to the country since the conflict began six years ago.
Blinken said other international donors to the humanitarian aid fund are concerned that the Houthis are obstructing and diverting assistance.
“UN experts describe the ways the Houthis divert state revenues to fund their own war efforts, which places a stranglehold on economic activity,” Price said.
“Food is being consistently discharged at Hudaydah port according to data provided by the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism. Unfortunately, we cannot assure that food passes through the port and reaches those in need. That area is under Houthi control and they often divert and manipulate this aid.”
Price said Biden is determined to work with Yemen and Saudi Arabia “to ensure fuel makes it to the Yemenis who need it and not confiscated by the Houthis for sale on the black market or for use in their war effort.”