United Nations chief warns Yemen in imminent danger of starvation

Ankara and Riyadh have been at odds for years over foreign policy and attitudes towards Islamist political groups

Yemen in 'imminent danger' of world's worst famine in decades: UN

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The option to designate the group a foreign terrorist organisation has come up multiple times since 2016, ultimately ending with the administration not doing so out of fear it would harm the UN-led peace process.

Everything from dealing with Huthi officials, handling taxes, using the banking system, paying health workers, buying food and fuel and arranging internet services could be affected, humanitarian groups say.

Two separate sources told Reuters around a dozen American aid workers had left the country this week. Others said an informal note had been sent to aid workers last week, in anticipation of potential safety concerns in Houthi-controlled areas.

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Aid agencies worry their work would be criminalised.

"While it is not likely to be too harsh e.g. kidnapping it could result in restriction of movement".

Riyadh has demanded more security assurances from the Houthis, including a buffer zone along the borders with northern Yemen until a United Nations -backed transitional government is formed, the sources said. The Houthis - also called Ansar Allah - are the de facto authority in northern Yemen and humanitarian organisations have to get their permits to carry out aid programmes, as well as work with ministries and local financial systems.

Jan Egeland, head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, said that if the USA government were to blacklist the Houthis, it should also issue a "general license" that allows aid groups to work with the rebel group and provide much-needed aid to the Yemeni people.

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Aid workers also worry a designation - with the increased burden on banks' compliance mechanisms - would impact Yemenis' access to financial systems and remittances from overseas, as well as complicating imports and raising goods prices further.

"The US must be at the forefront of encouraging contributions to the global humanitarian response in Yemen, not disincentivising aid donors with the threat of additional harmful sanctions", it added.

The Huthi rebels control the Yemeni capital Sanaa and much of the north after a grinding war that has created the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

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