U.S. urged in joint call from aid groups to halt support for Saudis in Yemen war

Five international charities on Monday urged the United States to halt all military support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Shia rebels, saying it would save millions of lives.

Yemeni officials say fighting has flared up again around port city of Hodeida

A father gives water to his malnourished daughter at a feeding centre in a hospital in Hodeida in September. A coalition of aid groups says 14 million people, nearly half of Yemen's total population, are at risk of starvation if the the conflict continues on its current course. (Hani Mohammed/Associated Press)

Five international charities on Monday urged the United States to halt all military support for a Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Shia rebels, saying it would save millions of lives.

A joint statement by the International Rescue Committee, Oxfam America, CARE US, Save the Children, and the Norwegian Refugee Council said that 14 million people are at risk of starving to death in Yemen if the parties to the conflict don't change course immediately.

The warring sides have undermined Yemen's economy with policies and practices that have caused rampant inflation while the value of currency plummets, it added.

"Starvation must not be used as a weapon of war against Yemeni civilians," the statement said.

The charities called on the U.S. to back up its recent call for a cessation of hostilities in Yemen with genuine diplomatic pressure, mainly Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a key coalition member.

A survey commissioned the International Rescue Committee found that 75 per cent of Americans oppose U.S. weapons sales to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. The YouGov survey showed that 82 per cent believe Congress should vote to end or decrease arms sales to the two Gulf Arab countries.

David Miliband, president of the IRC, said America is "fuelling a crisis that has severe consequences for millions of civilians."

International outrage

International outrage over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by Saudi agents in October has focused attention on Yemen's civil war, prompting the U.S. to scale back its support for the coalition and call for a ceasefire by the end of this month.

In March 2015, the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition unleashed a full-scale military campaign against Iran-allied Houthi rebels who had captured most of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

Martin Griffith, UN envoy to Yemen, is shown in Sanaa on Nov. 24 meeting with Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, head of the Houthi's military committee. Griffith has been shuttling between the sides, trying to build momentum towards staging peace talks. (Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters)

Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the war, and two-thirds of Yemen's 27 million people rely on aid. More than eight million are at risk of starvation in what has become the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

If it doesn't cease its military support for the coalition, "the United States, too, will bear responsibility for what may be the largest famine in decades," the charities said.

Yemeni officials on Monday said fighting has flared up again around the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, with more than 25 combatants killed over the past two days from both the rebel and government-backed side. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the media.

The UN envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, meanwhile met with Yemen's vice-president, Ali Mohsen al-Ahmar, in the Saudi capital, Riyadh, according to Yemen's state-run news agency SABA.

Griffiths, who visited Hodeida on Friday, has been shuttling between the two sides trying to secure a ceasefire and lay the groundwork for peace talks.