01/15/2021, 12.02
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UN, appeal to the US: do not classify the Houthis as 'terrorists'

The choice made by Donald Trump's outgoing administration risks aggravating the humanitarian crisis. It would have "catastrophic" effects on a famine already of vast proportions, because it hinders the distribution of aid. Activists and NGOs ask Biden to revoke the choice "for humanitarian reasons".

New York (AsiaNews / Agencies) - The United States must "cancel" the decision taken in recent days to classify the Houthis in Yemen among the "terrorist" groups. The appeal was made by numerous members of the United Nations Security Council, alarmed by the possible escalation of an already large-scale famine, defined as the worst in the world in the last 40 years. For the first time, analysts note, the United Nations, usually very cautious with the US, is openly criticizing a decision of the outgoing administration.

The measure taken by Washington will come into effect on January 19, the day before the official inauguration of the new president, Democrat Joe Biden. According to Mark Lowcock, UN Deputy Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs, "a turnaround" is essential because the exceptions envisaged by the US on the delivery of humanitarian aid are not enough to face a catastrophic reality and enormous needs.

This opinion is shared by compatriot Martin Griffiths, UN special envoy for Yemen, who says "the decision adds to the famine" and "must be revoked as soon as possible for humanitarian reasons". David Beasley, of the World Food Program, the Nobel Peace Prize winner in 2020, predicts a "catastrophe".

The choice made by outgoing President Donald Trump was welcomed by Saudi Arabia, Washington’s ally in the Middle East region and at war for years with the Houthis, who control the capital Sana’a and are considered close to Iran.

The Yemeni government recognized by the international community (and supported by Riyadh) also welcomed the US move, claiming that Houthi rebels carry out "terrorist acts" and do everything "to prolong the conflict".

In reality, the decision taken by the outgoing American administration has a series of grave consequences: from the blocking of humanitarian aid in the areas controlled by the Houthis to the derailment of the political negotiations that have been under way for some time between the two fronts, and which have begun to give some fruit in the last period.

This is why several NGOs have launched appeals to Biden and the Democratic parliamentarians, asking to overturn the decision from the first days of the mandate. Criticism also comes from the European Union, because this "risks making the peace efforts" undertaken by the UN in the Arab country more difficult.

"The greatest need today in Yemen - concludes Mark Lowcock - is to prevent a massive famine" while the forecasts for 2021 indicate that "16 million people will suffer from hunger". In this sense, Trump's move to declare the Houthis "terrorists" will eventually paralyze the distribution of humanitarian aid in the territories under their control.

The war in Yemen began in 2014 as an internal conflict between pro-Saudi government and Shiite Houthi rebels close to Iran. It degenerated in March 2015 with the intervention of the Arab coalition led by Riyadh and has registered over 10 thousand dead and 55 thousand injured. Independent bodies set the toll (between January 2016 and the end of July 2018) at about 57 thousand deaths.

For the UN the conflict has triggered "the worst humanitarian crisis in the world", about 24 million Yemenis (80% of the population) urgently need humanitarian assistance.  The coronavirus pandemic has had even more devastating impact with a healthcare system that has collapsed. Millions of people are on the verge of starvation and experts say children will suffer the consequences for the next 20 years.

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