Yemen's Houthis destroy tonnes of food aid they left to rot at checkpoint

UN says provisions were intended for families in Taez city in November 2018

epa07798126 Conflict-ridden Yemenis receive food rations provided by Mona Relief Yemen at a village on the outskirts of Sana'a, Yemen, 27 August 2019. The ongoing conflict in Yemen since 2015 has created the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, where some 80 percent of Yemen's 26-million population are in need of humanitarian assistance.  EPA/YAHYA ARHAB
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Yemen's Houthi rebels on Tuesday destroyed tonnes of food aid that they said had expired after it was held up for months in the war-torn country, which is teetering on the edge of famine.

The Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, used diggers to break up sacks of maggot-ridden rice and flour bearing the logo of the UN's World Food Programme.

"This consignment of foodstuff was going off and was full of small insects," Houthi official Majed Sari said. "It wasn't even good for animals."

The UN said the aid had been intended for delivery to families in the city of Taez in November 2018 but it "ended up detained at a checkpoint for months and months".

A Saudi-led coalition intervened in 2015 to help the internationally recognised government after the Houthis seized the capital Sanaa.

The coup has since triggered widespread malnutrition and what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

But the UN agency, which says it feeds about 11 million people a month in Yemen, halted distribution to rebel-controlled territory in June after accusing the Houthis of "diversion of food" meant for civilians.

In early August, it reached a deal to resume deliveries after the rebels offered guarantees that those in need would receive the aid, the UN agency said.

More than three million people have been displaced and some two-thirds of the country's population are in need of aid, the UN says.

A WFP spokesman said the agency distributed more than 130,000 tonnes of food each month in Yemen despite "operational challenges".

"WFP needs unimpeded access to all areas of the country so we can get food assistance to those who need it most," the spokesman said.

Last week, the UN said it was desperate for funds in Yemen after being forced to stop aid programmes because of a cash shortage that threatened to reduce food deliveries.

Several programmes "have been forced to close in recent weeks and many large-scale projects designed to help destitute, hungry families have been unable to start", said Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen.