Terrorist designation of Yemen Houthis could worsen famine

By Eileen Schuhmann | Presbyterian Hunger Program

Just yesterday, on the Trump administrations way out, a new policy went into effect designating the Yemen Houthis as a “foreign terrorist organization.” The global community is concerned that this labeling of the Houthis as terrorists could lead to catastrophic famine in the country.

For nearly 6 years, the Yemeni people have had to endure violent conflict between the Houthis and a Saudi-led coalition that has resulted in the killings of thousands of innocent civilians and also has led to extreme hunger, starvation and even the declaration of famine in 2017.

The U.S. has been an integral partner in this war, selling billions in arms to the Saudi government over the past several years, approving the sale of $290 million bombs just this past December.

Yemen continues to face the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, which continues to worsen with further intensification of the conflict there and the added challenges of the Covid-19 pandemic.

According to the World Food Program, about 24.3 million people need humanitarian assistance in Yemen and 16 million are suffering from food insecurity, 5 million of whom are acutely food insecure.

Now that the Houthis have been designated a terrorist group, there will be many limits placed on the types of support that humanitarian organizations, private companies, and governments can provide.

Yemen is in a particularly vulnerable position being that it imports 90% of its food. Any interruptions in the flow of food and other humanitarian goods and services could have harsh consequences particularly for those who are already living on the edge of starvation.

Just this past November, the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guiterres released a statement warning, “Yemen is now in imminent danger of the worst famine the world has seen for decades. In the absence of immediate action, millions of lives may be lost.”

The Presbyterian Church (USA) has continued to speak out in support of an end to the war in Yemen and in support of humanitarian assistance there.

In December, 2020, the PCUSA signed on to a Faith-based Humanitarian Letter to members of Congress in an attempt to “postpone any new Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) classifications in Yemen until adequate plans are made in cooperation with the humanitarian community, to ensure the classification will not result in a further deterioration of the dire situation facing Yemeni civilians.”

The PCUSA recently signed on to a letter from a large coalition of faith-based and civil society organizations requesting that the new Biden administration reverse the FTO designation of the Houthis in Yemen.

The PCUSA Stated Clerk signed on to a letter on March 14, 2018 declaring that, “We firmly believe that stability and long-term security in the Middle East will only come about when the United States and other countries move away from a militarized approach and the profits that come from perpetual conflict.”

The 223rd General Assembly of the PCUSA passed “A Resolution to Advocate for the Human Rights of All Citizens of Yemen.” The rationale for the resolution states, “To remain silent is to be complicit. We as Presbyterians must speak out. ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’ (Mt. 25:40).”

Take Action! Urge Your Members of Congress to End US Military Support for the War in Yemen!

Hear directly from the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s partner Generations without Qat in Yemen in their article “Famine conditions worsen in Yemen”

Read the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN Fact Sheet on the United Nations in Yemen

Learn about the Presbyterian Hunger Program’s work on extreme hunger and famine, including in Yemen

The work of the Presbyterian Hunger Program is possible thanks to your gifts to One Great Hour of Sharing.


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