As President Donald Trump meets with Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman of Saudi Arabia at the White House, Refugees International calls upon President Trump to use this opportunity to press for an end to the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen. In the absence of Saudi Arabia taking swift and concrete measures to protect and assist Yemeni civilians, the president should make clear that the United States will not continue to support a war that endangers millions of lives.
Today in Yemen, almost 18 million people are food insecure. Three million are internally displaced. More than one million people had contracted cholera by the end of last year, and more than 2,000 of them died. With the humanitarian response plan for Yemen requiring $3 billion, next month’s pledging conference in Geneva will be an important indicator of the world’s concern for what the United Nations has called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. But even $3 billion will not lessen the suffering of the Yemeni people unless goods and materials can enter the country, and humanitarian actors can reach people in need.
The president’s demand for an end to the humanitarian blockade of Yemen and the White House call last December for an immediate cessation of hostilities were important signals of concern about the suffering of the Yemeni people. We urge President Trump to hold firm in his support for Yemeni civilians. The strong U.S. relationship with Saudi Arabia affords an opportunity for both parties to alleviate the suffering of millions of people.
The United States provides Saudi Arabia billions of dollars’ worth of weapons. In the context of the war in Yemen, it shares targeting intelligence and offers support for refueling aircraft. Providing such substantial backing puts the United States in a position to demand that Saudi Arabia and its partners address the humanitarian crisis in Yemen in accordance with international humanitarian law. This should include:
- A full, permanent lifting of the blockade of both humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen through all ports, including Hudaydah;
- Immediate, safe access for humanitarians to all vulnerable people;
- A halt to any airstrikes that are in practice indiscriminate: killing people, destroying homes, and eradicating crucial infrastructure;
- A commitment to strongly support an internationally-backed peace process, including a revised UN Security Council resolution that makes full humanitarian access a reality.
This is a perfect opportunity for President Trump to sit face-to-face with the Crown Prince and create a plan to save lives as the conflict in Yemen grinds on. Saudi Arabia’s recent financial support to Yemen, and its Humanitarian Concept of Operations, will not improve the lives of millions of suffering Yemenis if humanitarians cannot directly address the situation on the ground.