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Yemen needs a US reset, not a retreat

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The US and other international donors will gather later this month in New York for the “Friends of Yemen” donor conference with an important opportunity to recalibrate the world’s support for Yemen. The US approach to Yemen to date has focused primarily on addressing symptoms – humanitarian needs, political violence, and extremism. It has done little to address the root causes these challenges.

Such a reorientation could be transformative for Yemen – and for US interests in that country and the broader region. That potential is evident in the recent progress seen in the regional capital of Taiz, which is Yemen’s third largest city and often dubbed the heart of the country’s revolution.

Taiz, like most of the country, faces a humanitarian emergency. Although markets are brimming with food, a staggering one fifth of those living there go to bed hungry, and 40 percent do not have access to safe drinking water. Unemployment is rampant, affecting 1 out of almost every 2 people.

The repercussions of these circumstances play out in the day-to-day lives of women in Taiz like Amina, a mother of six whom Mercy Corps began supporting with food vouchers after she brought her two-year-old daughter Amat – who weighed just 12 pounds at the time – to the local clinic for emergency treatment. Amina’s husband is unable to secure reliable employment, and the family can barely afford rice and beans for their children. Their story is emblematic of the broader challenge facing Yemen.

If children like Amat are unable to access sufficient food and clean water – especially during the vital early years of their lives – medical research shows they could face negative lifelong health impacts. This story, when multiplied by the tens of thousands of children who are also acutely malnourished, illustrates the seriousness and scope of the crisis for Yemen’s future.

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