Yemen: Designating ‘Houthis’ A Terrorist Organization Will Have Disastrous Impact on Civilians

Action Against Hunger is extremely concerned about the humanitarian consequences of the United States designating Ansar Allah (known as the ‘Houthis’) in Yemen as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). We firmly believe this designation will have a devastating impact on a civilian population already living in the world’s worst humanitarian disaster and, in many cases, on the brink of famine.

Action Against Hunger calls upon President-Elect Joe Biden and the incoming US Government to reverse this decision. We also call upon the United Nations Security Council and the European Union to immediately discuss and encourage the reversal of this decision with the US.

In the event that the decision moves forward, the US must immediately grant automatic exemptions to humanitarian organizations and our partners, safeguarding them from potential prosecutions and sanctions. Exemptions should also safeguard imports of essential commodities such as food, medicine, and fuel. Still, these exemptions will only marginally mitigate the impact of the FTO designation.  

An FTO designation will result in severe financial, legal, and bureaucratic constraints and lead many essential businesses and institutions – such as the international banking sector – to retreat from working with people and humanitarian organizations in Yemen.

Yemen’s already disastrous economy will fall deeper into crisis and drive hundreds of thousands of more Yemenis into poverty and hunger. Even as famine looms ever closer, the FTO designation and its additional constraints on aid will prevent the humanitarian sector from responding to growing needs.

The FTO designation would amount to a collective punishment for the Yemeni people, who face increasing food insecurity as a result of the ongoing conflict. Action Against Hunger views this decision as a violation of the spirit of the UN Security Council’s Resolution 2417, which condemns starvation of civilians as a weapon of war.

‘Too many children are already dead because of this conflict and its direct and indirect consequences – such as the ability to access food and healthcare. Many more are now going to die,’ said Jon Cunliffe, Regional Operations Director at Action Against Hunger in the Middle East. "Yemen already has a severe gap in humanitarian funding, and the economic impact of COVID-19 is expected to reduce further the funds pledged for humanitarian operations. A Foreign Terrorist Organization designation would force even more humanitarian actors to close offices in the North.”

Action Against Hunger, which has operated in Yemen since 2012, is extremely concerned at the prospect of the FTO designation. It can lead to dramatic consequences for people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. In the Houthi-controlled North, where 70% of Yemenis live, an FTO designation will drastically erode the humanitarian community's ability to deliver lifesaving assistance. 

Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with a staggering 24 million people requiring humanitarian aid. The country’s economic deterioration has seen a catastrophic downturn in the last few months, making food and other necessities unaffordable for even more families.

Action Against Hunger implements activities in some of the hardest-hit areas, such as Hodeidah, Abyan, Lahj, and Taiz, where more than one in five children suffer from acute malnutrition. In these areas, in the last six months, Action Against Hunger has provided lifesaving treatment to 41% more acutely malnourished children, an indication of growing needs.

Action Against Hunger is leading a global movement to end hunger in our lifetimes. It innovates solutions, advocate for change, and reach 25 million people every year with proven hunger prevention and treatment programs. As a nonprofit that works across 50 countries, its 8,300 dedicated staff members partner with communities to address the root causes of hunger, including climate change, conflict, inequity, and emergencies. It strives to create a world free from hunger, for everyone, for good.