55 Representatives Urge Pompeo to Restore Humanitarian Assistance to Yemen & Support Diplomatic Solutions to Conflict
Today, U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch (FL-22), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Ted Lieu (CA-33), Mark Pocan (WI-02),Tom Malinowski (NJ-07), and Eliot Engel (NY-16) led 49 of their colleagues in a letter to Secretary of State Michael Pompeo urging him to restore humanitarian aid to Yemen, enhance U.S. assistance to counter COVID-19, and bolster diplomacy to end the ongoing conflict. U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) led a parallel effort in the Senate signed by 19 Senators.
The situation in Yemen is considered the worst humanitarian crises in the world today, with tens of millions of people in urgent need of assistance. These conditions are exacerbated by the spread of COVID-19, which has a fatality rate of at least 25 percent in Yemen. However in March, the Trump Administration announced it would cut $73 million from U.S. assistance to Yemen, and Gulf states have failed to fulfill their pledged amounts for the humanitarian appeal. In addition, ceasefires and interim agreements have thus far failed to stop the violence.
The Members of Congress are calling on Secretary Pompeo "to reverse U.S. assistance cuts, redouble efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, mitigate the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, and advance a political solution to the Yemeni conflict."
"The challenges of Yemen are multifaceted and complex. However, progress is impossible without sustained and vigorous U.S. diplomatic engagement."
The letter was signed by: U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch, Ro Khanna, Ted Lieu, Tom Malinowski, Mark Pocan, Eliot Engel, Albio Sires, David Trone, Jim Costa, Gregory Meeks, Jamie Raskin, Alan Lowenthal, Jan Schakowsky, Jim Cooper, Peter A. DeFazio, André Carson, Alcee L. Hastings, Adriano Espaillat, David N. Cicilline, James R. Langevin, James P. McGovern, Brenda L. Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Juan Vargas, Vicente Gonzalez, Andy Levin, Joe Courtney, Steve Cohen, Nydia M. Velázquez, Jared Huffman, Joaquin Castro, Adam Smith, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Lori Trahan, Lois Frankel, Raúl M. Grijalva, Ilhan Omar, Abigail D. Spanberger, Gerald E. Connolly, Pramila Jayapal, Jason Crow, Colin Allred, David E. Price, Val Demings, Chellie Pingree, Peter Welch, Earl Blumenauer, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Brad Sherman, Dean Phillips, Adam B. Schiff, Ami Bera, Gwen Moore, Jimmy Gomez, and Ayanna Pressley.
The letter can be accessed here or read below.
Dear Secretary Pompeo,
We write to express our concern about the deteriorating situation in Yemen. We ask you to reconsider U.S. assistance cuts, enhance U.S. aid and diplomacy to counter COVID-19, improve the humanitarian situation, and reinvigorate the United Nations political process to achieve an immediate, nationwide ceasefire and eventual diplomatic solution to the conflict in Yemen.
Before the emergence of COVID-19, Yemen comprised the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Experts warned this environment might allow COVID-19 to “spread faster, more widely and with deadlier consequences than in many other countries.” Tragically, this prediction has borne out. The UN reports Yemen has nearly 2,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases and 567 deaths. However, the actual number of cases is likely far higher because of sporadic testing and incomplete data, especially in Houthi-controlled territory. As of late June, around 25 percent of confirmed cases in Yemen were fatal, one of the highest COVID-19 mortality rates in the world, and the country possessed a few hundred ventilators for a population of 27.5 million.
A lack of international funding and short-sighted cuts to U.S. assistance exacerbate these trends. On August 18, the UN noted that Yemen is approaching both famine and economic collapse. Only 21 percent of the 2020 humanitarian appeal for Yemen is met, primarily because of a drop in funding from Gulf states. Saudi Arabia has delivered less than five percent of its $500 million pledge, and neither the United Arab Emirates (UAE) nor Kuwait has pledged or delivered any funding at all. The UN warned that without more funding it will be forced to end treatment for 250,000 malnourished children, cut water and sanitation programs by 50 percent in 15 cities, and terminate medical care for nine million people in Yemen. Airstrikes have damaged or destroyed many of Yemen’s 3,500 medical facilities and only half are fully functioning. As a result, health clinics are overcrowded, and basic medicines and equipment are lacking. Additionally, food insecurity is increasing because of rising prices and a depreciating currency and most Yemenis do not have enough money to meet their basic needs.
In response, we call on you to restore the $73 million in U.S. assistance suspended in March and press the international community – especially Saudi Arabia and the UAE – to deliver significant contributions to humanitarian funding for Yemen. We also urge you to strongly support UN access to the abandoned oil tanker, Safer, off the Yemeni coast. The tanker is believed to contain more than one million barrels of crude oil and has been floating off Ras Issa, a Red Sea oil terminal, since early 2015. The Houthis must provide UN inspectors immediate access to the tanker to prevent its rupture, which could cause an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe.
We also urge you to enhance diplomacy to reduce the risk of separatism in Yemen and reach a nationwide ceasefire. A failure to implement agreements between the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) have destabilized southern provinces and threatened to fracture Yemen. Moreover, despite sporadic and unilateral ceasefire announcements, UN envoy Martin Griffiths recently asserted that the military situation in Yemen was not improving. Fighting in the Marib region persists and the number of active front lines in Yemen has increased from 33 to 43 since January. Civilians, especially children, remain at risk from the war and nearly one million vulnerable people around Marib are threatened with displacement. Only a ceasefire, gradual de-escalation, persistent diplomacy, and close consultation with diverse Yemeni constituencies including women and civil society stakeholders will achieve a durable end to humanitarian strife and the beginning of a peaceful era in a stable, unified Yemen.
The challenges of Yemen are multifaceted and complex. However, progress is impossible without sustained and vigorous U.S. diplomatic engagement. We urge you to reverse U.S. assistance cuts, redouble efforts to reduce the spread of COVID-19, mitigate the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe, and advance a political solution to the Yemeni conflict. Congress stands ready to actively assist your efforts to bring peace and stability to the people of Yemen.