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US Aid Chief: No Evidence Saudis Have Lifted Brutal Yemen Blockade

REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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The Saudi blockade of Yemen’s ports continues unabated, despite numerous calls by the Trump administration for Riyadh to allow humanitarian aid into the country, according to the top U.S. official for foreign aid.

Mark Green, the administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), said Tuesday there are no signs that the Saudi-led coalition has lifted the blockade that has prevented food, fuel and medical supplies from reaching tens of thousands of Yemeni civilians caught up in fighting.

“Unfortunately I can’t tell you there has been an easing of the blockade,” Green said, according to Reuters. “We’re trying to signal with this announcement that we’re ready to respond to this humanitarian catastrophe.”

Green’s assessment comes a week after President Donald Trump asked the Saudis to “immediately” ease restrictions on the flow of humanitarian aid into the war-ravaged country. The Department of State repeated the call this week, urging both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi militia leaders to allow “unfettered” access to the interior of the country where food and fuel shortages have killed thousands.

A coalition of Persian Gulf countries led by Saudi Arabia is engaged in a bombing campaign against Houthi rebels who overthrew Yemen’s Saudi-friendly government in 2014. The war has turned into one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises since the coalition began airstrikes the following year.

U.S. officials announced Tuesday a $130 million aid package for Yemen, including $84 million in food aid and $46 million in disaster assistance. Washington has contributed about $760 million in humanitarian aid to Yemen since 2016.

Despite the new aid package, Green said he is “deeply concerned” about the humanitarian situation in Yemen, especially the inability of relief agencies to get fuel into the interior of the country to power water purification systems. The spread of water-borne disease is a constant threat in Yemen, where more than 2,000 people have died from one of the worst cholera outbreaks in modern history.

Critics say the Trump administration, which has forged close ties to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, is exacerbating the conflict through its support of the Saudi coalition. Both the U.S. and Britain are assisting the Saudi Arabia with intelligence and refueling support for its airstrikes.

Washington warned Saudi Arabia last week that lawmakers’ concern over the humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen could affect future U.S. support of the Saudi-led coalition.

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