To the editor:
With its first deaths from complications related to COVID-19, Yemen has entered a troubling new phase in the ongoing humanitarian crisis stemming from its civil war.
The World Health Organization is expected to cut 80 percent of humanitarian aid to the country as a result of American cuts to WHO funding, dealing a serious blow to a country already reeling from a cholera outbreak.
As a U.S. citizen, my taxes — and the taxes of millions of others — have helped pay for the fuel to the Saudi aircraft that have dropped U.S.-made bombs on roads and hospitals. If U.S. tax dollars are going overseas, they should be spent on building bridges, not bombing buses full of children.
Thankfully, U.S. Rep. Eliot Engel has urged the Trump administration to continue to send aid to Yemen. A lot more action must be taken urgently to address a crisis that the United States, at least in part, created through a foreign policy that pursues weapons contracts with the Saudis over humanitarian aid to vulnerable people.
First, the United States must call on the Saudi government to open up all ports in their control, so that humanitarian organizations can transfer assistance to Yemeni health care workers. Second, the United States must lobby the U.S. Security Council to issue a statement backing a ceasefire between the warring parties in Yemen during the duration of the COVID-19 crisis, and work to urge parties to honor any ceasefire commitments that have already been made.
Third, the United States should immediately freeze arms exports to Saudi Arabia, which has committed war crimes by blowing up facilities used by aid organizations, and targeting the wounded and medical personnel.
Though there is much more that needs to be done to address the crisis in Yemen, if the United States can take just these three steps, we can prevent more needless death and suffering, and show what being a leader in democracy and human rights is all about.
Ravi Guru Singh