US resumes aid to Yemen’s rebel north as famine threatens

AP – The United States (US) announced a resumption of aid to Yemen’s rebel-held north on Friday to fight a looming famine as the country’s nearly six-year-old war grinds on United Nations (UN) officials warned that a blockade of fuel deliveries to a main port was heightening the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The aid concern came as US President Joe Biden’s envoy to Yemen expressed frustration at the country’s Houthi rebels, saying they were focussing on fighting to capture more territory while an international and regional diplomatic push was underway to end the conflict.

“Tragically, and somewhat confusingly for me, it appears that the Houthis are prioritising a military campaign” to seize central Marib province, envoy Tim Lenderking said. He spoke in an online event sponsored by the Atlantic Council think tank, after his more than two-week trip in the region to push for a ceasefire and ultimately a peace deal.

The developments deepen the challenges for the Biden administration as it goes out on a limb to try to end the Yemen war through diplomacy, reversing previous US administrations’ support for an inconclusive military offensive that tried to roll back the Iran-allied Houthi rebels. The rebels have shown no sign of relenting despite Biden’s diplomatic overtures, adding to tensions between the US and its strategic partner Saudi Arabia.

Lenderking said the Houthis have had a ceasefire proposal before them for a “number of days” and urged them to respond positively.

He gave no details, including whether the proposal was new or an updated version of a nationwide ceasefire plan that UN special envoy Martin Griffiths announced last year.

Fighting and massive displacement of people, crippling fuel shortages and rising food prices have 50,000 Yemenis already caught up in famine and five million more a step away from it, the UN said. It projects 400,000 Yemeni children under five are at risk of dying this year from malnutrition.

A woman holds her malnourished son at a feeding centre at the Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. PHOTO: AP