U.S. aid chief says no sign Yemen port blockade easing to allow aid in

Reuters News
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Posted: Dec 12, 2017 6:27 PM

By Lesley Wroughton

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - There are no signs that a blockade of Yemen's ports by a Saudi-led military coalition has eased to allow aid to reach communities increasingly at risk of starvation, the head of the U.S. government's aid agency said on Tuesday.

USAID administrator Mark Green called on the Saudi-led military coalition to open Yemen's ports and for Yemen's Houthis to cease firing to allow food and medical supplies to flow to tens of thousands of Yemenis caught in the fighting.

Green was speaking after the U.S. announced another $130 million in emergency food aid for Yemen, bringing U.S. assistance to nearly $768 million since October 2016. The new funds includes nearly $84 million in U.S. food aid and $46 million in emergency disaster assistance.

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

Green said he was "deeply concerned on so many fronts" about the crisis in Yemen, but in particular the failure to get fuel into the country so people have access to clean water.

"That means a number of communities are either without clean water or will be very shortly, and in both cases that is a terrible concern from the cholera perspective and the survival perspective," he added.

The U.N.'s coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said on Monday the blockade has been eased but the situation remained dire with some 8.4 million people "a step away from famine" in Yemen.

A Saudi-led military coalition fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement blockaded ports last month after a missile was fired toward Riyadh.

Washington last week warned Saudi Arabia that concern in Congress over the humanitarian situation in Yemen could affect U.S. assistance to allies in the Saudi-led coalition, including the U.S. refueling of coalition jets and some intelligence sharing.

(Reporting by Lesley Wroughton; Editing by James Dalgleish)