US President Donald Trump called for Saudi Arabia to end the blockade against Yemen on Wednesday, in a sideswipe that some analysts saw as retribution for Saudi criticism of the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital.
Yemen has been described by observers as "worse than Syria" while the United Nations has christened it the most pressing humanitarian crisis in the world.
"I have directed officials in my administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it", Trump said on December 6.
"This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately".
Fighting in Yemen's capital Sanaa has spiked in recent days during a showdown between Houthi rebels and loyalists of Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
But Riyadh and its allies accuse their arch-rival Iran of arming the rebels via the port. Tehran denies the accusation. Seven million people are believed to be on the brink of starvation and a cholera outbreak has caused more than 2,000 deaths.
The violence is compounding an already dire humanitarian situation in the country where a Saudi blockade prompted by a Houthi missile strike targeting Riyadh has hindered attempts to deliver aid, including food and medical supplies, to the impoverished nation.
Given the unprecedented suffering in Yemen ― and the failure of countries involved like Saudi Arabia, the US, the United Arab Emirates and Iran to fully supply the close to 21 million people there who are in need ― the hundreds of millions of Saudi dollars spent on the painting could perhaps have been put to better use. The conflict has seen civilians repeatedly killed by bombing and through a lack of access to food and clean water.
The Houthi rebels are backed by an Iranian-led coalition and supported Saleh while the internationally recognized President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi is backed by a Saudi-led coalition. Mr Saleh joined forces with the Houthis two years ago to fight against the Saudi-backed government as he spotted an opportunity for a comeback. It said last month it recorded a total of 962,536 suspected cases of the disease throughout Yemen. "We're living in a state of fear".
"We find the events unfolding there to be deeply disturbing with ground clashes and airstrikes dramatically escalated in Sanaa and surrounding governorates", Dujarric said.
"The past month's escalation has killed thousands and condemned thousands more to die in the near future".
Scott Paul, a humanitarian policy leader at Oxfam America, said Trump's call was long overdue but "hugely important". "We should not overlook the fact that U.S. support has helped create Yemen's horrific crisis".