pushed through nearly a billion dollars for the region in the late 1990s in the aftermath of Hurricane Mitch, which killed more people but wrought a comparable level of damage as the recent storms, aid workers say.

Immediate humanitarian aid could certainly help alleviate hunger, homelessness and other crises spurred by the storms, as it seems to have done after Hurricane Mitch.

undermined efforts to change their economies enough to give the poor a reason to stay at home.

embezzled American aid money through sham nonprofits. Mr. Hernández, the nation’s leader since 2014, has denied the allegations and has not been charged. A spokesman did not provide comment.

“We need to be aggressively addressing the levels of despair that the folks hit by these storms are facing,” said Dan Restrepo, a former top adviser to President Obama. “We need to go big now and we need to be loud about it, because that starts actually factoring into the calculus that people face today, which is, ‘Can I survive here or not?’”

People smugglers are already taking advantage of Mr. Biden’s presence in the White House to win new customers. Moving swiftly and loudly, Mr. Biden undid many of the harsh immigration policies pioneered by his predecessor.

Human traffickers in Honduras are enticing clients by promising a much easier journey north, touting Mr. Biden’s refusal to immediately expel children at the border and making grand promises about how friendly the new administration will be, according to interviews with smugglers.

One trafficker outlined his latest pitch to Honduran families thinking about leaving: “They opened everything back up, now you can get in again,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the illegal nature of his work. “If they catch you, they send you to Mexico. It’s not like before, where they sent you back to your country.”

He added that since Mr. Biden’s inauguration, he had sneaked 75 people across the American border illegally.

“Because of the new president, they are opening more doors,” he said. “It’s a free market. That’s how we see it.”

But rather than point to Mr. Biden, many Hondurans first blurt out their own president’s name as a reason to leave home.

Mr. Hernández’s brother was recently sentenced to life in prison by an American court for trafficking cocaine into the United States. Prosecutors said the president provided protection to his brother and other traffickers in exchange for cash.

For many Hondurans, the past few months in particular have provided a searing case study in how little they seem to matter to their government.

Jesus Membreño’s house was sheared off the side of a mountain in the storms, but with nowhere else to go, he built a shelter over a piece of the cement floor that was left behind.

“We received nothing from the government, not even a sheet of metal to replace our roof,” Mr. Membreño said.

He said he would head north alone in the coming weeks.

Residents in Canaan, a section of the Chamelecón suburb that was flattened in the hurricanes, say the government never even sent any tractors to clear the mud. So Ms. Flores and her neighbors are trying to feed their children by carving off pieces of their ruined homes and selling them as scrap metal.

“It’s enough to buy some beans or rice,” she said, traipsing through mud punctuated by the tips of children’s bicycles and other rubble. “No one, not one politician or government, has helped us.”

The first time Ms. Flores tried to get to the United States was after her ex-husband broke into her house and slashed her face and arms with a machete, in 2016, she said. She never made it.

The second time was this January, she said, after living with her children under an improvised tent after the storms damaged her home. The few possessions she had spent years accumulating — her stove, her fridge, her beds, her television — were swallowed by mud.

“It’s the sadness, the disappointment that hits you,” Ms. Flores said, “It’s very hard to see your home buried. I had nothing left.”

With six of her children, she joined the first migrant caravan of this year, in January, she said. They walked for miles, but turned back after barely eating for days and then getting tear-gassed and beaten by the Guatemalan police. That’s when she stopped believing Mr. Biden was going to welcome anyone with open arms.

“If that were the case, why would they have sent me home?” she asked.

So Ms. Flores used parts of her old wooden house to build a shelter on top of the earth that devoured everything she had.

Now she’s waiting for the next caravan to leave, driven not by hope but by despair.

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Syrian Refugees in Rebel Controlled Idlib Are Stuck in Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

“We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

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In a Syrian Rebel Bastion, Millions Are Trapped in Murky, Violent Limbo

IDLIB, Syria — Among the millions of Syrians who fled as the government bombed their towns, destroyed their homes and killed their loved ones are 150 families squatting in a soccer stadium in the northwestern city of Idlib, sheltering in rickety tents under the stands or in the rocky courtyard.

Work is scarce and terror grips them whenever jets buzz overhead: New airstrikes could come at any time. But the fear of government retribution keeps them from returning home. More than 1,300 similar camps dot Syria’s last bastions under rebel control, eating up farmland, stretching along irrigation canals and filling lots next to apartment buildings where refugee families squat in damaged units with no windows.

“People will stay in these places with all the catastrophes before they go live under the regime of Bashar al-Assad,” said Okba al-Rahoum, the manager of the camp in the soccer stadium.

On a rare visit to Idlib Province, examples abounded of shocked and impoverished people trapped in a murky and often violent limbo. Stuck between a wall to prevent them from fleeing across the nearby border with Turkey and a hostile government that could attack at any moment, they struggle to secure basic needs in a territory controlled by a militant group formerly linked to Al Qaeda.

bused them here after conquering their towns. They drove in with trucks piled high with blankets, mattresses and children. Some arrived on foot, with few possession besides the clothes they wore.

Last year, an offensive by the Syrian government, backed by its Russia and Iran, pushed nearly a million more people into the area.

About 2.7 million of the 4.2 million people in the northwest, one of the last of two strips of territory held by a rebel movement that once controlled much of Syria, have fled from other parts of the country. That influx has transformed a pastoral strip of farming villages into a dense conglomeration of makeshift settlements with strained infrastructure and displaced families crammed into every available space.

SHINE, an education organization, urged a group of women at an event in Idlib to refuse polygamous marriages, which are permitted under Islamic law.

The next day, gunmen closed SHINE’s office and threatened to jail its manager, Ms. Kisar said.

a cease-fire between Russia and Turkey has stopped outright combat in Idlib, but on one day last month there were three attacks. A shell hit a refugee camp; an airstrike ignited a fuel depot on the Turkish border; and three artillery shells struck a village hospital in Al Atarib, killing seven patients, including an orphan boy who had gone for a vaccination, according to the Syrian American Medical Society, which supports the facility.

While the area’s displaced struggle to survive, others try to provide simple pleasures.

In the city of Idlib, the Disneyland restaurant entices visitors to dine on salads and grilled meat, and to forget their woes with video games, bumper cars, air hockey and stuffed animal claw machines.

The basement storeroom doubles as a shelter when the government shells nearby, and the terrace is enclosed with plastic sheeting instead of glass so it doesn’t shatter on diners if something explodes nearby.

The manager, Ahmed Abu Kheir, lost his job at a tourist restaurant that shut down when the war began, he said, so he opened a smaller place that was later destroyed by government shelling.

He opened another restaurant, but left it behind when the government seized the area last year and he fled to Idlib.

Like all of Idlib’s displaced, he longed to take his family home, but was glad to work in a place that spread a little joy in the meantime.

“We are convinced that normal life has to continue,” he said. “We want to live.”

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After Claims of Sexual Abuse, Oxfam Suspends 2 Workers in Africa

Oxfam has suspended two staff members over accusations of sexual misconduct in the Democratic Republic of Congo in recent years, the British charity said on Friday, months after commissioning a broader investigation into abuse claims in the central African nation.

The suspensions were the latest troubles for Oxfam, whose funding from the British government was halted for nearly three years after a sexual exploitation scandal in Haiti in early 2018. The charity was allowed to apply again for that assistance only a few weeks ago.

“We have suspended two members of Oxfam staff in the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of an ongoing external investigation, which we set up last November, into allegations of abuses of power, including bullying and sexual misconduct,” the charity said in a statement on Friday.

The accusations against Oxfam and other aid workers in Congo come amid a broader examination of accusations of sexual abuse by humanitarian aid workers and United Nations peacekeepers working with some of the world’s most vulnerable people in war zones and humanitarian emergencies.

The New Humanitarian, a nonprofit news organization based in Geneva, about the conduct of aid workers in Congo during the Ebola crisis from 2018 to 2020. It cited accusations from more than 50 women who said they had been sexually abused by workers at several leading charities, including Oxfam.

The accusations focus on multiple incidents in eastern Congo at a time when several international aid groups were working in the region. The report mentioned staff members of several other aid groups and agencies.

Oxfam said in its statement that it was “acutely aware of our duty to survivors, including in supporting them to speak out safely,” and added, “We are working hard to conclude the investigation fairly, safely and effectively.” 

In February 2018, the Haitian government suspended the British branch of Oxfam from working in the country after an investigation found that there had been sexual misconduct by employees and that aid workers had abused their power and paid women for sex.

A cholera outbreak that later killed thousands of Haitians was traced to United Nations peacekeeping troops sent in after the quake. And in recent years staff members of U.N. peacekeeping missions and some of its aid agencies have been accused of sexual abuse in the Central African Republic, Congo and Haiti.

The issues have forced a re-examining of safeguarding measures within the organization. Last month, António Guterres, the United Nations secretary-general, released an annual report on the global body’s response to sexual exploitation and abuse.

That report acknowledged the most recent accusations implicating United Nations workers involved in the Ebola response, and said that an independent commission and other bodies were “investigating these wrongs.”

“I am deeply concerned that such egregious allegations continue to implicate United Nations personnel and pledge that we will redouble and spare no efforts to address the underlying factors that harm those whom we seek to assist,” Mr. Guterres said in the report.

The U.N. report also noted that the coronavirus pandemic had “deepened existing inequalities and exposed those in vulnerable situations to increased risks of sexual exploitation and abuse.”

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US to Send Millions of Covid-19 Vaccine Doses to Mexico and Canada

The United States plans to send millions of doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Mexico and Canada, the White House said Thursday, a notable step into vaccine diplomacy just as the Biden administration is quietly pressing Mexico to curb the stream of migrants coming to the border.

Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said the United States was planning to share 2.5 million doses of the vaccine with Mexico and 1.5 million with Canada, adding that it was “not finalized yet, but that is our aim.”

Tens of millions of doses of the vaccine have been sitting in American manufacturing sites. But while their use has already been authorized in dozens of countries, the vaccine has not yet been approved by American regulators.

Several European countries suspended use of the AstraZeneca vaccine this week, a precaution because some people who had received the shot later developed blood clots and severe bleeding. But on Thursday, Europe’s drug regulator declared the vaccine safe. AstraZeneca has also said that a review of 17 million people who received the vaccine found they were less likely than others to develop dangerous clots.

halting construction of a border wall, stopping the swift expulsion of children at the border and proposing a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the United States.

But he is clinging to a central element of Mr. Trump’s agenda: relying on Mexico to restrain a wave of people making their way to the United States.

Anticipating a surge of migrants and the most apprehensions by American agents at the border in two decades, Mr. Biden asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico in a video call this month whether more could be done to help solve the problem, according to Mexican officials and another person briefed on the conversation.

The two presidents also discussed the possibility of the United States sending Mexico some of its surplus vaccine supply, a senior Mexican official said. Mexico has publicly asked the Biden administration to send it doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine.

At a news briefing on Thursday, Ms. Psaki said that the discussions over vaccines and border security between the United States and Mexico were “unrelated” but also “overlapping.”

one of the world’s deadliest coronavirus epidemics, would be buoyed by a shipment of doses south.

“Both governments cooperate on the basis of an orderly, safe and regular migration system,” Roberto Velasco, director general for the North America region at Mexico’s foreign ministry, said in a statement, referring to the engagement between the two countries on migration and vaccines.

But he said there was no quid pro quo for vaccines: “These are two separate issues, as we look for a more humane migratory system and enhanced cooperation against COVID-19, for the benefit of our two countries and the region.”

wielded the threat of tariffs against all Mexican goods unless migration was curbed — may have flagged in the waning months of the Trump administration.

From October through December of last year, the number of Central Americans apprehended by Mexico declined, while detentions by American agents increased, according to Mexican government numbers and data compiled by The Washington Office on Latin America, a research organization that advocates for human rights.

“The likelihood of the outgoing Trump administration threatening tariffs again was low, so there was an incentive for Mexico to go back to its default state of low apprehensions,” said Adam Isacson, an expert on border security at The Washington Office on Latin America.

The Biden administration’s appeal to do more against migration has put Mexico in a difficult position. While Mr. Trump strong-armed Mexico into militarizing the border, some Mexican officials argue that his harsh policies may have at times helped lessen their load by deterring migrants from attempting to make the journey north.

signaling that the United States is more welcoming to migrants.

Tuesday statement, the secretary for homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said he was “working with Mexico to increase its capacity to receive expelled families.”

A Mexican law that went into effect in January prohibits the authorities from holding migrant families and children in detention centers, and the lack of space in shelters has become a major problem.

“Shelters are at a near collapse,” said Enrique Valenzuela, a lead coordinator for the government of Chihuahua state’s migration efforts.

Local officials in Chihuahua and shelter operators say that coordination has broken down between Mexican and American authorities. During the last years of the Trump administration, American officials would notify their Mexican counterparts before expelling migrants across the border and would orchestrate the crossings at a handful of well-staffed border checkpoints, they say.

Under the Biden administration, they say, Customs and Border Protection agents now deposit migrants at some of the most obscure, understaffed checkpoints, leaving their Mexican counterparts scrambling when they discover dozens of migrants walking in from the United States.

Local government officials in Ciudad Juárez and shelter operators say Mexico is dialing up operations to capture and deport migrants along the northern border. On a near daily basis, two of them said, Mexican authorities are stopping vans stuffed with families and pickup trucks carrying livestock — along with migrants crouching on the floor to avoid detection.

Part of the reason Mexico is willing to continue cracking down is that, despite being a country that has long sent people north, there is a lot of resentment toward Central American migrants.

“The level of negative attitudes that we have toward migrant flows has gone up, so there won’t be a political cost” for Mr. López Obrador, said Tonatiuh Guillén, who ran Mexico’s National Migration Institute in the first half of 2019. “But with Trump, we negotiated nothing — we gave them a lot and they didn’t give us anything back,” he added, arguing that the strategy should be different with Mr. Biden.

Despite the very public tensions with Mexico under Mr. Trump, Mr. López Obrador has been wary of the Biden administration, concerned that it might be more willing to interfere on domestic issues like labor rights or the environment.

Instead, several Mexican officials say, his government has pushed the United States to deter Central Americans from migrating by sending humanitarian aid to Honduras and Guatemala in the wake of two hurricanes that devastated those countries and, many experts believe, pushed even more people to migrate.

Mexican officials have also asked the United States to send more Hondurans and Guatemalans apprehended in the United States directly to their home countries, rather than releasing them to Mexico, making it even harder for them to try to cross the border again.

While the negotiations over migration may be on a separate track from Mexico’s request for surplus vaccines from the United States, the need for them in Mexico is clear.

About 200,000 people have died in Mexico from the virus — the third highest death toll in the world — and the country has been relatively slow to vaccinate its population. That poses a potential political risk for Mr. López Obrador, whose party is heading into crucial elections in June that will determine whether the president hangs onto control of the legislature.

“Mexico needs cooperation from the U.S. in getting its economy jump-started and getting vaccines to get out of the health crisis,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “So there’s room for the two countries to reach agreements based on aligned interests rather than overt threats.”

Michael D. Shear, Jim Tankersley and Ian Austen contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.

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Biden Urges Mexico to Do More to Stop Migration

MEXICO CITY — The Biden administration has been quietly pressing Mexico to curb the stream of migrants coming to the United States, urging it to take in more families being expelled by American authorities and to step up enforcement at its southern border with Guatemala, according to Mexican officials and others briefed on the discussions.

President Biden has moved quickly to dismantle some of former President Trump’s signature immigration policies, halting construction of a border wall, stopping the swift expulsion of children at the border and proposing a pathway to citizenship for millions of immigrants in the United States.

But he is clinging to a central element of Mr. Trump’s agenda: relying on Mexico to restrain a wave of people making their way to the United States.

Anticipating a surge of migrants and the most apprehensions by American agents at the border in two decades, Mr. Biden asked President Andrés Manuel López Obrador of Mexico in a video call this month whether more could be done to help solve the problem, according to Mexican officials and another person briefed on the conversation.

one of the world’s deadliest coronavirus epidemics, would be buoyed by a shipment of doses south.

“Both governments cooperate on the basis of an orderly, safe and regular migration system,” Roberto Velasco, director general for the North America region at Mexico’s foreign ministry, said in a statement, referring to the engagement between the two countries on migration and vaccines.

But he said there was no quid pro quo for vaccines: “These are two separate issues, as we look for a more humane migratory system and enhanced cooperation against COVID-19, for the benefit of our two countries and the region.”

wielded the threat of tariffs against all Mexican goods unless migration was curbed — may have flagged in the waning months of the Trump administration.

From October through December of last year, the number of Central Americans apprehended by Mexico declined, while detentions by American agents increased, according to Mexican government numbers and data compiled by The Washington Office on Latin America, a research organization that advocates for human rights.

“The likelihood of the outgoing Trump administration threatening tariffs again was low, so there was an incentive for Mexico to go back to its default state of low apprehensions,” said Adam Isacson, an expert on border security at The Washington Office on Latin America.

The Biden administration’s appeal to do more against migration has put Mexico in a difficult position. While Mr. Trump strong-armed Mexico into militarizing the border, some Mexican officials argue that his harsh policies may have at times helped lessen their load by deterring migrants from attempting to make the journey north.

signaling that the United States is more welcoming to migrants.

“They get to look like the good guys and the Mexicans look like the bad guys,” said Cris Ramón, an immigration consultant based in Washington, D.C.

“All the positive humanitarian policies are being done by the Biden administration. ” Mr. Ramón added, “and then the Mexicans are left with the dirty work.”

Mr. López Obrador is also trying to find a way of increasing capacity to house migrants in shelters, which are bursting at the seams. In a Tuesday statement, the secretary for homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, said he was “working with Mexico to increase its capacity to receive expelled families.”

A Mexican law that went into effect in January prohibits the authorities from holding migrant families and children in detention centers, and the lack of space in shelters has become a major problem.

“Shelters are at a near collapse,” said Enrique Valenzuela, a lead coordinator for the government of Chihuahua state’s migration efforts.

Local officials in Chihuahua and shelter operators say that coordination has broken down between Mexican and American authorities. During the last years of the Trump administration, American officials would notify their Mexican counterparts before expelling migrants across the border and would orchestrate the crossings at a handful of well-staffed border checkpoints, they say.

Under the Biden administration, they say, Customs and Border Patrol agents now deposit migrants at some of the most obscure, understaffed checkpoints, leaving their Mexican counterparts scrambling when they discover dozens of migrants walking in from the United States.

Local government officials in Ciudad Juárez and shelter operators say Mexico is dialing up operations to capture and deport migrants along the northern border. On a near daily basis, two of them said, Mexican authorities are stopping vans stuffed with families and pickup trucks carrying livestock — along with migrants crouching on the floor to avoid detection.

Part of the reason Mexico is willing to continue cracking down is that, despite being a country that has long sent people north, there is a lot of resentment toward Central American migrants.

“The level of negative attitudes that we have toward migrant flows has gone up, so there won’t be a political cost” for Mr. López Obrador, said Tonatiuh Guillén, who ran Mexico’s National Migration Institute in the first half of 2019. “But with Trump, we negotiated nothing — we gave them a lot and they didn’t give us anything back,” he added, arguing that the strategy should be different with Mr. Biden.

Despite the very public tensions with Mexico under Mr. Trump, Mr. López Obrador has been wary of the Biden administration, concerned that it might be more willing to interfere on domestic issues like labor rights or the environment.

Instead, several Mexican officials say, his government has pushed the United States to deter Central Americans from migrating by sending humanitarian aid to Honduras and Guatemala in the wake of two hurricanes that devastated those countries and, many experts believe, pushed even more people to migrate.

Mexican officials have also asked the United States to send more Hondurans and Guatemalans apprehended in the United States directly to their home countries, rather than releasing them to Mexico, making it even harder for them to try to cross the border again.

While the negotiations over migration may be on a separate track from Mexico’s request for surplus vaccines from the United States, the need for them in Mexico is clear.

About 200,000 people have died in Mexico from the virus — the third highest death toll in the world — and the country has been relatively slow to vaccinate its population. That poses a potential political risk for Mr. López Obrador, whose party is heading into crucial elections in June that will determine whether the president hangs onto control of the legislature.

“Mexico needs cooperation from the U.S. in getting its economy jump-started and getting vaccines to get out of the health crisis,” said Andrew Selee, president of the Migration Policy Institute in Washington. “So there’s room for the two countries to reach agreements based on aligned interests rather than overt threats.”

Zolan Kanno-Youngs and Michael D. Shear contributed reporting from Washington, D.C.

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As Biden Seeks to End U.S. Involvement in Yemen, Iran-Backed Fighters Launch More Attacks

MARIB, Yemen—A detachment of Saudi-backed Yemeni soldiers—armed with AK-47s, rocket-propelled grenades and a single tank—keep watch from a rock outcropping, scanning the vast expanse of desert below them for signs of activity by Iranian-backed Houthi fighters.

“They’re out there,” said Yemeni Maj. Gen. Ameen Alwaili. “They’re pushing in from three sides.”

This small outpost is on the front lines of a continuing battle between the Houthi rebels and Yemen’s U.N.-recognized government, which is trying to hold on to Marib, its last stronghold in the north of the country and site of a coveted oil refinery.

In recent weeks, Houthi forces, using armed drones, ballistic missiles and mortars, have moved within a few miles of the city.

If Marib falls, Yemeni government and Saudi officials warned, it would give the Houthis and their Iranian allies control of a strategically valuable area that could serve as a launchpad for continued strikes on Saudi Arabia’s oil industry infrastructure and other targets.

A fighter with forces loyal to Yemen’s Saudi-backed government mans a heavy machine gun northwest of Marib in central Yemen on Feb. 11.

Photo: Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Saudi and Yemeni officials said recent moves by President Biden to disentangle the U.S. from the grinding six-year civil war appear to have emboldened Houthi fighters. Last month, the Houthis launched more drone and missile strikes than in any other month during the conflict, U.S. officials say.

“The Houthis misunderstood Biden’s moves and saw them as a green light,” said a senior Saudi official.

Mr. Biden has scaled back U.S. support for the Saudi war effort and dispatched a special envoy to try to broker a cease-fire and eventual peace deal between the two sides. Ending Houthi strikes on Saudi Arabia is a central goal of Washington’s diplomatic push, U.S. officials said.

“If we cannot make progress now, the country will spiral into greater conflict and instability,” Tim Lenderking, the special U.S. envoy, said last week after presenting the Houthis with a new proposal to end the fighting. “Let us seize this moment.”

The war in Yemen has become a political albatross for Riyadh and Washington, with both trying to find an exit strategy from a conflict that has spawned what the U.N. calls the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe. Aid groups say diplomatic deadlock is deepening the crisis by holding up delivery of food and fuel needed to avert widespread famine in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition mounted a series of airstrikes on Yemen’s rebel-held capital Sanaa on March 7.

Photo: Hani Al-Ansi/Zuma Press

A recently-released Houthi prisoner visits a cemetery in Sana’a, Yemen, March 3.

Photo: yahya arhab/Shutterstock

Soon after taking office, Mr. Biden put a hold on arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which has been Riyadh’s most important ally on the ground in Yemen. He also reversed a last-minute Trump administration move to officially declare the Houthis terrorists and impose economic sanctions on key leaders of the group.

Aid groups have applauded that move, saying a terror designation would have made it impossible for them to work in Houthi-controlled areas.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sent the Saudi military into Yemen in 2015 to support a weak Yemen government struggling to stop the Houthis. The intervention quickly became a military quagmire, Iran stepped up support for the Houthis and the rebels captured the splintered country’s capital.

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Errant airstrikes that killed thousands of women and children over the years have eroded Western backing for the Saudi effort. Under pressure, then-President Trump reduced U.S. support for Saudis in 2018 by curtailing aerial refueling for planes carrying out the airstrikes.

But he also agreed to some key requests from the Gulf nations. Shortly before leaving office, Mr. Trump signed off on multibillion-dollar arms deals for the UAE and Saudi Arabia, including more precision-guided missiles used in Yemen.

The new approach to Yemen is part of a broader Biden administration shift in U.S. relations with Saudi Arabia. Riyadh’s support in Washington has plunged in recent years. The war in Yemen and the 2018 killing of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul fueled bipartisan discontent. Securing a peace deal in Yemen is one way U.S. officials say Riyadh can begin to repair its relationships in Washington.

The Pentagon is now focusing on providing assistance that’s defensive in nature, such as helping the Saudi military shoot down Houthi missiles and drones targeting the country.

The U.S. has also scaled back intelligence support for the Saudis. “It is more limited than it’s ever been,” one U.S. military official said.

More on Yemen’s Civil War

U.S. officials said surveillance flights over Yemen are more focused on the parallel threat posed by the country’s branch of al Qaeda, which is considered the most dangerous branch of the extremist group behind the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The U.S. has carried out scores of drone strikes over the past decade on al Qaeda forces in Yemen, where thousands of its members are believed to still operate. The U.S. will keep warning the Saudis of imminent Houthi rocket and drone strikes if they get intelligence on them, the official said.

While the U.S. is working to get out of Yemen, Iran is trying to deepen its reach, Saudi, Yemeni and U.S. officials say. The U.S. has repeatedly seized Iranian-made weapons off the coast of Yemen that American military officials said were sent by Tehran to aid Houthi forces.

Iran denies the American accusations.

U.S., Saudi and Yemeni officials also say Hasan Irlu, an Iranian military commander serving as Iran’s diplomat in Houthi-controlled Yemen, has brought a new level of battlefield sophistication to the Houthis.

Last December, the Trump administration accused Mr. Irlu of training Houthi fighters to use advanced weapons. The U.S. imposed economic sanctions on Mr. Irlu.

So far, the Houthis have rebuffed U.S. diplomatic pressure to agree to a cease-fire with Saudi Arabia, after which the Saudis would end their blockades of the Red Sea port of Hodeida, the main gateway for humanitarian aid, and the Sana’a airport.

Houthi leaders have said they would only agree to a national cease-fire if the Saudis end the blockades first.

One Houthi official briefed on the continuing talks accused the U.S. of siding with Saudi Arabia by condemning Houthi missile and drone strikes on the Saudis.

“The U.S. doesn’t seem serious about ending the war in Yemen,” the official said. “When they show seriousness, we can meet and talk directly with them.”

Saudi officials want Mr. Biden to release his hold on the sale of precision-guided missiles, which they say are used only to defend their allies from Houthi attacks. U.S. officials expressed little openness to approving the sales, but suggested they might revisit the issue if Saudi Arabia disengages from Yemen.

A soldier stands at the Yemen military position on the front lines of the fight against Houthi forces outside Marib, Yemen, on March 9.

Photo: Dion Nissenbaum/The Wall Street Journal

From a command center bored into a gravel-covered hillside near Marib, Lt. Gen. Mohammed al-Maqdishi, defense minister for the U.N.-backed government in Yemen, accused the Houthis of “using waves of soldiers like sheep.”

He said he hoped the U.S. would rethink its approach. “People trust the U.S. to stand with Saudi Arabia against Iran and its proxies,” he said. “We are putting our hope in that.”

Write to Dion Nissenbaum at dion.nissenbaum@wsj.com

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Surge in Migrants Defies Easy or Quick Solutions for Biden

WASHINGTON — The Biden administration warned on Tuesday that the United States expected to make more apprehensions along the southwestern border this year than at any time in the past two decades, underscoring the urgency for the White House to develop solutions for the chronic problems with immigration from Central America.

The grim prediction by Alejandro N. Mayorkas, the secretary of homeland security, came as President Biden was being assailed for his handling of a surge at the border involving thousands of unaccompanied children and teenagers from the region — with attacks coming from the right for not being tough enough and from the left for not being humane enough.

The president has pleaded for time and patience, blaming his predecessor for dismantling the immigration system in his zeal to keep foreigners out. But even Mr. Biden’s top advisers acknowledge that after unwinding the harsh policies of President Donald J. Trump’s, there is no easy or quick fix for a problem that has been a recurring crisis.

“We have no illusions about how hard it is, and we know it will take time,” Mr. Mayorkas said in a statement on Tuesday as the House prepared to vote this week on several immigration measures and the administration rushed to provide more housing for the young migrants arriving at the border. But, he added, “We will get it done.”

restart the Obama-era Central American Minors program, which was intended to allow some children to apply in their home region for permission to live in the United States with a parent or other relative. When Mr. Trump ended the program, about 3,000 Central American children had been approved for travel to the United States.

It will take time to ramp up the program, which has strict vetting requirements, in order to verify the relationships of the children and their relatives.

Now, the administration is eager to examine even broader efforts to consider asylum applications remotely.

The administration is already testing a system where migrants, who were told by the Trump administration to wait along the border in squalid camps in Mexico, can use an app on their cellphones to apply for asylum and track their cases. That kind of system might be expanded more broadly, officials said.

“This is the road map going forward for a system that is safe, orderly and fair,” Mr. Mayorkas said.

Many of the changes Mr. Biden wants are included in comprehensive immigration legislation he sent to Congress on his first day in office. But that bill is a long way from becoming law, especially with Mr. Trump and other Republicans again using immigration to stoke their partisan base.

Mr. Biden’s most ambitious — and difficult — goal is to use the United States’ wealth and diplomatic power to reshape the region in the hopes of diminishing the root causes of migration from Central America, starting with poverty and violence.

It is an effort that has been tried before, Mr. Obama and members of Congress from both parties agreed to invest several hundred million dollars into Central America with the hope of improving the courts, diminishing the cartels and improving economic conditions.

Mr. Trump cut that spending, arguing that it was a waste of money, before restoring some of it. But Mr. Biden’s team is betting that even more investment will produce results. In Honduras, for example, the country’s coffee production has been hurt by hurricanes and slumping prices for coffee beans, driving many people into poverty.

But helping to reverse those kinds of economic trends could take years.

“When the president talks about ‘root causes,’ some of this is immediate humanitarian aid, but a lot of it is policy and aid together, making sure that you tackle the root causes of migration,” Ms. Jacobson said. “Otherwise, what you see is continued cycles.”

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‘I Have No Money for Food’: Among the Young, Hunger Is Rising

PARIS — Amandine Chéreau hurried from her cramped student apartment in suburban Paris to catch a train for an hourlong trip into the city. Her stomach rumbled with hunger, she said, as she headed for a student-run food bank near the Bastille, where she joined a snaking line with 500 young people waiting for handouts.

Ms. Chéreau, 19, a university student, ran out of savings in September after the pandemic ended the babysitting and restaurant jobs she had relied on. By October, she had resorted to eating one meal a day, and said she had lost 20 pounds.

“I have no money for food,” said Ms. Chéreau, whose father helps pay her tuition and rent, but couldn’t send more after he was laid off from his job of 20 years in August. “It’s frightening,” she added, as students around her reached for vegetables, pasta and milk. “And it’s all happening so fast.”

As the pandemic begins its second year, humanitarian organizations in Europe are warning of an alarming rise in food insecurity among young people, following a steady stream of campus closings, job cuts and layoffs in their families. A growing share are facing hunger and mounting financial and psychological strain, deepening disparities for the most vulnerable populations.

intensifying crisis over how to meet their basic dietary needs. As the global economy struggles to rebound from the worst recession since World War II, hunger is on the rise.

In the United States, nearly one in eight households doesn’t have enough to eat. People in already food-starved countries face a greater crisis, with food insecurity in the developing world expected to nearly double to 265 million people, according to the United Nations World Food Program.

In France, Europe’s second-largest economy, half of young adults now have limited or uncertain access to food. Nearly a quarter are routinely skipping at least one meal a day, according to le Cercle des Économistes, a French economic think tank that advises the government.

acknowledged a growing crisis after undergraduate and graduate students demonstrated in cities across France, where higher education is seen as a right and the state finances most costs. He announced a rapid relief plan, including 1-euro meals daily at university cafeterias, psychological support and a review of financial aid for those facing a “lasting and notable decline in family income.”

Linkee, a nationwide food bank that set up new services dedicated to students who cannot get enough food. “Students have become the new face of this precariousness,” he said.

Food insecurity among students was not uncommon before the pandemic. But the problem has ballooned since European countries imposed national lockdowns last spring to contain the coronavirus.

Aid organizations that mainly fed refugees, the homeless and people below the poverty line have refocused operations to also meet a surge in demand among youth. At the Restos du Coeur, one of France’s largest food banks, with 1,900 outlets, the number of young adults under 25 lining up for meals has risen to become nearly 40 percent of the total.

Over eight million people in France visited a food bank last year, compared with 5.5 million in 2019. Food aid demand across Europe has surged by 30 percent, according to the European Food Banks Federation.

While the government subsidizes campus meals, it doesn’t provide food pantries. As the cost of staying fed grows insurmountable for students with little or no income, university administrators have turned to aid groups for help fighting hunger.

The pandemic has wiped out jobs in restaurants, tourism and other hard-hit sectors that were once easily accessible to young people. Two-thirds have lost work that helped them make ends meet, according to the National Observatory of Student Life.

limit mass layoffs and prevent bankruptcies. But that hasn’t shielded parents from the recession’s widening toll.

Co’p1/Solidarités Étudiantes, the food bank Ms. Chéreau visited, opened near the Bastille in October when six students from Paris Sorbonne University banded together after seeing more of their peers go hungry.

Aided by the Paris mayor’s office and the Red Cross, they negotiated donations from supermarkets and food companies like Danone. Now, 250 student volunteers organize pasta, cereal, baguettes, milk, soda, vegetables and sanitary items to give to 1,000 students a week — though the need is five times greater, said Ulysse Guttmann-Faure, a law student and a founder of the group. Students go online to reserve a place in the line.

“At first, it took three days for these slots to fill up,” he said. “Now, they’re booked in three hours.”

Food banks like these, run by student volunteers for other students, have become a rare bright spot for thousands who have been struggling silently to confront the psychological toll of living with the pandemic.

Thomas Naves, 23, a philosophy major on a scholarship at Nanterre University, said he felt abandoned and isolated taking online classes for months at a time in a tiny studio.

When his student jobs were cut, he began seeking out food banks that set up at his campus twice a week. There, he found not only desperately needed meals, but a way to escape loneliness and cope with his growing distress. His parents were both ill, and were themselves barely making ends meet.

Mr. Naves settled behind a small table in his student lodging one recent afternoon to eat a microwaved curry he had gotten from the campus food pantry. In his closet was a small stock of donated pasta and canned goods — enough to eat several more meals.

“Going to the food bank is the only option to feed myself,” he said.

“But meeting other students in my situation made me realize that we are all sharing this suffering together.”

Gaëlle Fournier contributed reporting.

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