March 27, 2017 | Revolution Newspaper | revcom.us
President Trump’s proposed budget includes $25.6 billion for both the State Department and USAID, amounting to a 28.7% reduction from the current spending these organizations provide for “humanitarian efforts.”1 Along with this, the new budget aims for major cuts—though the exact amounts are not yet specified—in U.S. contributions to the United Nations and its affiliated agencies.
The United Nations reports that it will require a $5.6 billion budget to effectively provide aid and relief for countries struggling with the after effects of war, which disproportionally affects civilians, especially children, by means such as famine and lack of access to medical attention. To provide effective relief, the United Nations must have the $5.6 billion by the end of March; so far it has only received 6% of the needed budget.2
The United States has been the largest financial contributor to the United Nations in the past, contributing upwards of 22% of the UN’s humanitarian budget. So the proposed budget cuts are a real concern for the United Nations, as it dwells on the uncertainty of the United States’ commitment to humanitarian relief. [See Sidebar on United Nations.]
One of the countries that will be extraordinarily impacted is Yemen, where a major humanitarian crisis has been escalated through the actions of a Saudi Arabia and United States organized coalition that is fighting against Yemeni Houthi rebels3.
The United States has aided the Saudi Arabian efforts by providing logistical and intelligence support for their systematic attacks against the Houthis, but more so, it has provided $1.3 billion worth of arms to Saudi Arabia to further their war campaign. Since 2009, the U.S. has provided Saudi Arabia with weapons that span across various military equipment, most notably armored vehicles (tanks), combat ships, and combat aircrafts. However, this military aid also consists of ammunition along with guns, howitzers, and more intense explosive ordinance such as cluster bombs and missiles.
Much of the criticism aimed at the Saudi-led coalition has been due to the systematic execution of air-strikes that have claimed the lives of thousands of civilians through the bombings of cities, schools, and hospitals; more than half the aircraft owned and used by Saudi Arabia to accomplish the bombing campaigns were provided by the U.S in November 2015, including F-15s, KC-130, and the E-3A.4 An August 2016 report from the U.S. Central Command concluded that since the war began, American military tankers had refueled more than 5,600 coalition aircraft used to conduct these airborne attacks.5
Further aggravating the suffering from the war, Yemen relies heavily on food imports for 90% of its people’s sustenance. But these imports have been largely halted due to a Saudi Arabian-led blockade which has endangered the lives of 14 million Yemenis as of 2016. This has not only caused widespread malnutrition, but has led to a lack of medical supplies needed to treat the tens of thousands of civilians injured in the war.6 The ships used to conduct this blockade were provided by the U.S in an October 2015 deal, where the U.S. sold Saudi Arabia four Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) ships7.
The United Nations recently estimated that more than seven million Yemenis will need food aid to combat the widespread famine caused by blockade and by war-driven displacement. More disturbingly, UNICEF reported that 462,000 children will suffer severe acute malnutrition due to the war, which will likely contribute to developmental disabilities even if they eventually receive food assistance.8
As of February 2017, the UN Food and Agricultural Organization reported that 65% of Yemenis—17 million people—struggle with food insecurity. The UN Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) has requested $1.7 billion for Yemen, in addition to the $2.1 billion requested for Yemen HRP 2017, for a total $3.8 billion budget towards the Yemen humanitarian response. To date, it has approximately funded only 6% of the budget needed to combat the crisis in Yemen. Total U.S. Government assistance to Yemen and the neighboring countries has been less than $431 million as of March 10, 2017.9
1. Mohammed, Arshad. "Trump plans 28 percent cut in budget for diplomacy, foreign aid." Reuters. Thomson Reuters, 16 Mar. 2017. Web. [back]
2. Sengupta, Somini. "Why 20 Million People Are on Brink of Famine in a ‘World of Plenty’." The New York Times. , 22 Feb. 2017. Web. [back]
3. Editors’ Note: The Houthi are a Shi’a force that launched a rebellion against the Yemeni government in 2004. In 2015, Saudi Arabia—with U.S. backing—invaded Yemen because it believed the Houthi were politically tied to the U.S. and Saudi arch-enemy in the Middle East, Iran. [back]
4. Hartung, William D. "U.S. Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen Share This /." U.S. Arms Transfers to Saudi Arabia and the War in Yemen | Security Assistance Monitor. 06 Sept. 2016. Web. [back]
5. Almosawa, Mark Mazzetti and Shuaib. "Support for Saudi Arabia Gives U.S. Direct Role in Yemen Conflict." The New York Times. 24 Aug. 2016. Web. [back]
6. Beauchamp, Zack. "Why the hell is the US helping Saudi Arabia bomb Yemen? A brief guide." Vox. 14 Oct. 2016. Web. [back]
7. Kingdom of Saudi Arabia - Multi-Mission Surface Combatant (MMSC) Ships | The Official Home of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency. Web. http://www.dsca.mil/major-arms-sales/kingdom-saudi-arabia-multi-mission-surface-combatant-mmsc-ships [back]
8. Sengupta, Somini. "Why 20 Million People Are on Brink of Famine in a ‘World of Plenty’." The New York Times. 22 Feb. 2017. Web. [back]9. "Yemen | Disaster Assistance." U.S. Agency for International Development. https://www.usaid.gov/crisis/yemen