US legislators call on Biden to help raise funds for Yemen

After a United Nations donor conference for Yemen fell short, key US senators are pushing for more humanitarian aid.

Ali al-Nehmi, 70, sits with his grandchildren in their hut at a camp for internally displaced people in Marib, Yemen, on April 5 [File: Ali Owidha/Reuters]

A group of influential United States legislators is calling on the Biden administration to help raise $2.5bn in aid for Yemenis suffering amid what they described as “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.

In an open letter on Tuesday, four US senators urged Secretary of State Antony Blinken to provide more aid for Yemen and rally other countries to contribute after a recent United Nations fundraising appeal for the war-torn country fell short.

The UN conference in March sought to raise $3.85bn but only raised $1.35bn. The Biden administration had pledged $19mn in US assistance, far below the “fair share” of $1.2bn that international aid group Oxfam had urged Washington to contribute.

“More than 20 million Yemenis depend on humanitarian assistance to survive and we cannot let them down,” reads the bipartisan letter, signed by Democratic Senators Chris Murphy and Jeanne Shaheen, as well as Republican Senators Jerry Moran and Todd Young.

“Unfortunately, the looming threat of famine has re-emerged. Today, nearly 50,000 people in Yemen are living in famine-like conditions with 5 million more just a step away,” said the legislators, urging Blinken to support calls for a second humanitarian donor conference for Yemen.

Switzerland and Sweden have called for another fundraising conference to fill the $2.5bn shortage

“We urge you to work with other major donors to rally around that meeting, mobilizing the resources needed to stave off famine and save lives,” the senators said in their letter.

Murphy has been travelling in the region this week and met in Amman on Tuesday with the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking and a group of European diplomats.

Lenderking had been in Saudi Arabia and Oman on April 29 for talks on Yemen.

“Folks are definitely hoping the United States contributes its fair share. It’s definitely a welcome letter,” said Hassan El-Tayyab, a lobbyist in Washington with the Friends Committee on National Legislation, a Quaker advocacy organisation.

But El-Tayyab told Al Jazeera that “aid alone is not enough to support the population”.

“It’s at best a Band-Aid,” he said. “What Yemen needs is a nationwide ceasefire that ends the war.”

President Joe Biden has withdrawn US support for offensive operations carried out by a military coalition in Yemen led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and paused weapons sales to Saudi Arabia that had been previously approved by the Trump administration.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the country’s Houthi rebels overran large swathes of territory, including the capital, Sanaa, and deposed Saudi-backed Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have been accused of committing war crimes during the ongoing conflict.

Biden also in February delisted Yemen’s Houthi movement as a “foreign terrorist organisation”, undoing a last-minute move by former President Donald Trump that aid groups said would prevent much-needed assistance from reaching a large part of the Yemeni population.

Source: Al Jazeera