Yemen’s government expressed alarm on Wednesday at the United Nations "shameful" supplying of dozens of armoured vehicles to a demining centre that is accused of being backed by Houthi rebels.
The UN Development Programme said on Tuesday that it had provided 20 Hilux armored vehicles to the Yemen Executive Mine Action Centre to support its demining activities in the ports of Hodeidah, Ras Isa and Salif.
However, government officials say the rebels have taken full control of the centre.
"The UNDP's actions are shameful," Hamza Al Kamaly, Yemen's Deputy Minister of Youth, told The National, without providing evidence to support the accusation that the centre is Houthi-controlled
“We know that the Houthis will use these vehicles to accelerate their military activities and the UN is now seen as a criminal partner in planting landmines,” Mr Al Kamaly said.
Hodeidah became the focus of the war in Yemen as the rebels are accused of using it to smuggle Iranian weapons into the country, including missiles that have been used to target neighbouring countries, such as Saudi Arabia.
The port is also the point of entry for most of Yemen’s commercial goods and aid supplies.
“The government and coalition must take a stronger stance against the UN,” Mr Al Kamaly said, adding that the UN has donated millions of dollars to YEMAC, which he believes has been diverted to the rebels.
International reports suggest the rebels have planted nearly 800,000 mines across the country, resulting in hundreds of deaths.
Yemen’s Minister of Information Moammar Al Eryani said on Tuesday that the UNDP have put thousands of Yemeni lives at risk.
“It’s unfortunate that the funding offered by an ally is being diverted to finance the rebels' mining programmes, which are supervised by the Iranians,” he said.
“The rebels have not made a declaration regarding their so-called demining efforts."
Yemeni activist Baraa Shiban also supports the government's claims.
“The Houthis are the only group in the Yemen conflict that are planting mines, according to the UN Human Rights commission,” he said on Twitter, urging UNDP to carry out an investigation.
UNDP said in a statement that it operates in Yemen alongside YEMAC to clear “explosives, conduct land surveys and focus efforts in a place where the impact and need is greatest".
“YEMAC’s work clearing the ports of Hodeidah – and UNDP’s role to ensure they are best equipped to do so – is vital to the future of the country and the welfare of the Yemeni people,” UNDP’s resident representative, Auke Lootsma, said.
The vehicle handover is the first of a larger vehicle procurement for YEMAC in both northern and southern Yemen, said the statement.