A Yemeni child rides a bicycle past debris of a destroyed building allegedly hit by a Saudi-led airstrike, in Sanaa, Yemen. A coalition of five humanitarian groups urged the United States and other countries to act to constrict the Saudi-led military coalition allegedly responsible for a famine in Yemen that could affect 14 million people. File Photo by Yahya Arhab/EPA-EFE
Nov. 26 (UPI) -- Humanitarian agencies pleaded on Sunday for an end to support for a Saudi-led military operation, in order to alleviate a famine in Yemen.
In a joint statement, the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam America, CARE USA, Save the Children USA and the Norwegian Refugee Council USA called on the U.S. government to end its military support for the military coalition of Arab countries fighting Iran-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen.
"The stakes in Yemen are shocking and must be stated clearly: 14 million people are at risk of starving to death in Yemen if the parties to the conflict and their supporters do not change course immediately," the group statement reads in part. "If the Government of Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Ansar Allah, and other parties to the conflict fail to take these steps, and if the United States does not use all levers of pressure to compel them to do so, responsibility for the deaths of many more Yemeni civilians will lie not only with the parties to the conflict, but with the United States as well."
It is rare that the humanitarian organizations publish a joint statement urging governments to act.
In a separate statement directed to British political leaders, Oxfam said, "The people of Yemen are not starving. They are being starved. Over three years of war has left 14 million people facing famine. Nearly half of all children aged between six months and five years are chronically malnourished. All warring parties, and those fueling the conflict through arms transfers, are implicated in this totally man-made humanitarian crisis. Farms and food supplies have been bombed and attacked. The currency has collapsed and the price of essential food items has doubled. Humanitarian aid is being blocked, while sickness and disease are killing people already weak through starvation."
The civil war in Yemen has killed at least 100,000 people and put the country on the brink of starvation. The United Nations has reported that 14 million Yemenis, or about half the population, are at risk of starvation, and Save the Children said that an estimated 85,000 children under five have died from starvation or disease.
The United States and other Western countries are supporting the coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The statement by the five organizations acknowledged that the United States is a major contributor to humanitarian efforts in Yemen, but added that "these contributions pale in comparison to the harm caused by U.S. military support and diplomatic cover to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates."
Last week, U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that peace talks would begin in Sweden in December, and the United Nations Security Council is expected to vote soon on a British resolution calling for a two-week cease fire in Yemen to allow transport of food and humanitarian aid.