Remarks at a UN Security Council Briefing on the Situation in Yemen

Ambassador Nikki Haley
U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York City
September 21, 2018


Thank you, Mr. Lowcock, for your briefing.

What we know about the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is horrifying. But, truthfully, what’s even scarier is what we don’t know. Recently, journalists visited a remote village in northern Yemen. They found families wasting away. Surviving – if you can call it that – on a diet of a sour green paste made of leaves from a local plant.

One mother of a seven-month-old was so malnourished she often cannot feed her baby. And she has no other means. She told the journalists, “Since the day she was born, I have not had the money to buy her milk or buy her medicine.”

The pictures of the village’s starving babies captured by the journalists are almost too much to take.

These kids were wasting away off the grid. Their parents can’t even afford the cost of transporting their kids to clinics for help. Families in Yemen rely on outside aid to survive. Yet the needs are so vast and the obstacles so tough that it’s hard to figure out who needs help and actually get it there.

That is despite the best efforts of so many brave aid workers, who struggle to deal with officials on the ground blocking access and interfering with relief efforts.

In the end, we may never know how many kids are dying in these remote villages. Parents rarely report their deaths, and they never get counted in the UN’s already dire statistics.

Stories like these are overwhelming. But the Security Council is not helpless in the face of this crisis. There are things that the international community can do to help these starving children and their mothers. We just have to have the will to do them.

Last time the Council met on Yemen, we all urged the parties to de-escalate and go back to talks. But as we heard today, the opposite has happened. So the United States calls on all parties to take precautions to protect the grain mills and food storage facilities around Hudaydah. Yemen cannot afford any more close calls with fighting around these warehouses. Fighters must not enter UN facilities. And these facilities must be protected from attack.

This is not rocket science. The minimum that the Security Council can demand of the fighters from all sides is to allow humanitarian relief to reach the starving people of Yemen. Recent fighting is making the main road from the port much harder to use, and the parties should work with the UN to get aid moving around without interference.

Finally, the parties must avoid moving ahead with any new restrictions on imports of food, fuel, and other life-saving goods bound for Yemen. These are things that the parties can do immediately.

In the longer term, everyone around the table today knows what must be done. All of us support the efforts of Special Envoy Martin Griffiths to find ways to reduce the violence and return to talks.

The tragedy that is building in Yemen is almost beyond comprehension. But we are not helpless in the face of it. Everyone – the Security Council, the warring parties in Yemen, and their partners – should be focused on negotiating an end to this war – not making the suffering of Yemeni children worse.