UN Agency Suspends Food Aid in Rebel-Held Area of Yemen

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The World Food Program says it has begun a partial suspension of food aid in Sanaa, Yemen, which is controlled by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, because food is being diverted from the beneficiaries. 

The World Food Program reported Thursday that 850,000 Yemenis in Sanaa would miss out on desperately needed rations.  The agency said it could not reach agreement with Houthi authorities to take measures to prevent the diversion of food from the most vulnerable people in Yemen.

FILE -A malnourished boy sits on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen, Oct. 1, 2018.

It said it had been forced to take the measure as a last resort because of a breakdown in negotiations.  WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said Houthi authorities had refused to introduce a biometric registration system that would ensure those in need of aid would receive it.

“WFP’s priority remains to feed the hungriest children, women and men in Yemen.  But as in many conflict areas, some individuals seek to profit from preying on the vulnerable and diverting food away from where it is most needed. … Unfortunately, we are yet to reach agreement,” Verhoosel said.

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Verhoosel said the integrity of WFP’s humanitarian operation was under threat and its ability to help those in need had been undermined by the criminal actions of a few.  He said WFP would continue to seek cooperation from Sanaa-based authorities.  

He said the agency was ready to immediately resume food distribution once an agreement was reached on an independent identification exercise and the rollout of a biometric registration system.

In the meantime, he said, WFP will maintain nutrition programs for malnourished children and pregnant and nursing mothers during the suspension period. 

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