Yemen government condemns diversion of aid to Houthi rebels

Video circulated online shows piles of UN aid in rebel-held area of Marib province

Employees of the World Food Programme distribute relief items to displaced Yemenis in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on April 18, 2020. AFP
Employees of the World Food Programme distribute relief items to displaced Yemenis in the rebel-held capital Sanaa on April 18, 2020. AFP

Vital humanitarian aid for millions of people in Yemen is not reaching those in need because it is being diverted by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, officials say.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government flagged the issue again on Thursday after a video circulated on social media purportedly showed piles of aid from the World Food Programme in the Houthi-held area of Sirwah in Marib province.

The UN agency said it was aware of a video of WFP-marked boxes in the frontline area.

“WFP cannot confirm the source or authenticity of the video,” a spokesperson told The National.

“WFP food assistance is for the most vulnerable Yemeni civilians. WFP cannot tolerate any diversion of food assistance that undermines our mandate to respond to the serious humanitarian crisis in Yemen.”

The agency, which feeds more than 12 million Yemenis a month, 80 per cent of whom are in areas controlled by the Houthis, said this month it would halve the amount of aid delivered to rebel-held zones due to a funding crisis.

The UN says some donors have stopped their aid over concerns that Houthi forces were obstructing deliveries.

Local NGOs that operate in Houthi-held areas are diverting WFP’s aid to the rebels, Hamza Al Kamaly, Yemen’s deputy youth minister, told The National.

“The problem is that WFP and United Nations Development Programme are treating the NGOs as neutral organisations but in reality they are one-sided,” Mr Al Kamaly said.

“They are giving the relief to Houthi fighters instead of giving to those in desperate need and the rebels are using it as a weapon of war,” he said.

Yemen’s Information Minister, Moammar Al Eryani, urged the United Nations to co-ordinate with the government to find new mechanisms to deliver aid to those in need in Houthi-held areas.

“The measures must include ways to prevent civilians from being held hostage, under extortion and to prevent them from starvation, oppression and disease,” Mr Al Eryani said on Twitter.

UN officials have had trouble in dealing with the Houthis. In January, they accused the rebels of looting an aid warehouse under their control.

The UN last year partially suspended its aid programme in Sanaa, the country’s Houthi-controlled capital, after the rebels refused to accept the imposition of a registration system designed to ensure aid supplies reached their intended recipients.

Published: April 23, 2020 08:00 PM


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