SECRETARY BLINKEN: President Cassis, thank you very much. It’s very good to see you today via video. To Secretary-General Guterres, António, thank you for bringing us together. Under Secretary Griffiths, thank you for the work you and your team are doing every single day, not only in Yemen but quite literally around the world. And to my friend Ann Linde as well, thank you for everything you’re doing in leading this conference. And I do want to say as well a special note of thanks to Special Envoy Jolie for doing something that’s so important, which is actually putting the focus on what this is all about – the men, the women, the children who are affected in so many ways by this ongoing crisis in Yemen.
And I hope that each of us just takes a minute as we’re thinking about this, thinking about our responsibilities, to try to put ourselves in their shoes, to imagine if this was your son or your daughter, your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, and think about what that actually means and maybe find some additional motivation to continue to take action. As Martin said at the outset and as others have said, we’re faced with a multiplicity of challenges around the world, and it’s particularly difficult when the spotlight has moved elsewhere. That’s when the real test comes. Can we keep our focus? Can we keep our engagement? Can we keep our determination? Can we run and chew gum at the same time? That’s what we have to do here, because once again, we are meeting at what is a dire time for Yemen.
We’ve heard the numbers. I won’t repeat all of them, but again, just to emphasize, two out of three Yemenis require humanitarian assistance for basic necessities. That includes more than 17 million Yemenis who need food assistance, a number that, as we’ve heard, is expected to rise to 19 million in the second half of 2022. The number of Yemenis facing famine conditions is predicted to increase fivefold to over 160,000, and right now, more than 2 million children suffer from life-threatening malnutrition. And we’ve heard, again, people pay witness to that.
And yet, even as humanitarian needs in Yemen are rising, contributions are falling. Funding shortfalls have already forced the UN to close or reduce two-thirds of its critical humanitarian programs in the country. Food rations for 8 million Yemenis have been significantly reduced. Without a significant surge in resources, those reduced rations will be eliminated entirely in the coming months, and again, I ask each of us to think about what that actually means in human terms. If that’s not enough, the Russian Government’s unprovoked aggression in Ukraine threatens a significant source of Yemen’s imported wheat. Just in the first week of this month alone, in March, many Yemenis saw bread prices shoot up 50 percent.
So to help meet the urgent needs, today the United States is announcing nearly $585 million in new humanitarian aid to Yemen. That brings the total we’ve provided since the outset of the conflict to about $4.5 billion. This is important. It’s important for all of us to step up, but there are other things that are vital if we’re actually going to deal with the challenge that people are facing in Yemen. To prevent a humanitarian catastrophe from fully unfolding, more support as needed, not just from us but from others. And we welcome the commitments made today by other donors. We urge everyone to step up, to do their part.
But as others have said, the humanitarian support is one side of the equation. This doesn’t work fundamentally in the absence of peace, in the absence of a resolution. So we have to work relentlessly to bring the conflict to an end, knowing that as long as it goes on so will the humanitarian crisis. We can mitigate it, we can reduce it, we can address it, but in order to really deal with it, we have to have peace. It’s as basic and as simple as that. Absent that, misery will continue; suffering will continue. We all know that. So we have to redouble our efforts there too as well.
To that end, the United States strongly supports UN Special Envoy Grundberg’s efforts to launch a more inclusive, comprehensive peace process that will improve the lives of Yemenis and allow them to collectively determine their own future. Our Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking is working to support that effort, including in his travel to Yemen and the Gulf over the past couple of weeks.
The first step toward resolution is de-escalation, and yet here too, in recent months, we have seen just the opposite. That’s why we condemn the escalating attacks by the Houthis, including cross-border attacks in January that killed civilians in the United Arab Emirates, wounded civilians in Saudi Arabia. It’s why we continue to work to help strengthen the defense of our Saudi and Emirati partners. It’s also why we call on all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, stop attacks on civilians, stop attacks on civilian infrastructure. Humanitarian assistance has to be allowed to flow into Yemen through all entry points throughout the country, freely, without interruption. And attacks on the staff of humanitarian organizations have to stop immediately. Every country has a responsibility to bring pressure to bear so that life-saving aid can actually get to those who need it.
For all the suffering that’s been wrought by this conflict, I have to say that it’s also demonstrated the remarkable heart, the remarkable courage of the Yemeni people. There’s so many individual examples of this. Some of them come to the fore through the spotlight that people like the special envoy bring to this, the media in its efforts to report what’s going on. But I’m thinking of people like Ameen Jubran, who co-founded Jeel Albena, an organization that aids displaced Yemenis. The group’s motto is: by Yemenis, for Yemenis. It’s built more than 18,000 emergency shelters for displaced families.
To Ameen, a shelter is more than a roof. Here’s how he put it: If they have adequate shelter, it protects the family’s dignity. This is something that he knows intimately. Like so many of his colleagues, he and his family have been displaced multiple times since the conflict began. And yet, they continue to risk their lives in some of the most dangerous parts of Yemen to help others live with dignity.
So we have to do all we can to ensure that the United Nations and countless groups like Ameen’s can actually continue their life-saving work in Yemen. That’s what today is all about, and even as we do that, we have to redouble our efforts to finally – finally – bring peace to this country. Thank you.