JEDDAH: Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani on Tuesday praised the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for revealing the misuse and theft of food aid by Houthi militia, who have been accused of distributing aid to their followers and fabricating records.
The minister said the report, while delayed, stressed that the organization's aim was to ensure aid reached those who needed it.
The WFP threatened to suspend some aid shipments to Yemen if the Houthis did not investigate and stop theft and fraud in food distribution, warning the suspension would affect some 3 million people.
Its ultimatum was a strong warning and an indication of how corruption has increased the threat of famine in Yemen, where four years of war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Al-Iryani said in a statement to Saba news agency: “The WFP report indicates that the Houthi militia is deliberately starving the population in the areas under its control to increase their suffering, which gives it an opportunity to exploit this suffering through international forums to achieve political and military objectives.
“The Houthi militia deliberately deprives millions of Yemenis of salaries, livelihoods and aid from donor countries, increasing their suffering, and pushing many of them to participate in the war, after opening the door of recruitment and joining the fronts as a single option for those who lost their sources of income.”
Al-Iryani added that the Houthi militia had developed local and affiliated entities and organizations, and were receiving assistance from international organizations, redirecting it to their supporters and fighters on the front lines, or exploiting it to spread extremist ideology among citizens, helping to prolong the conflict rather than using aid to ease the lives of people.
He also called on aid organizations to enhance the transparency of their work and to move their offices as soon as possible to the temporary capital of Aden to help them carry out their work with transparency and neutrality, away from the restrictions imposed by the Houthi militia.
In a letter sent to militia leader Abdul-Malek Al-Houthi, WFP director David Beasley said that an agency survey showed that aid was only reaching 40 percent of eligible beneficiaries in the militia-held capital, Sanaa. Only a third were receiving aid in the militia’s northern stronghold of Saada.
“If you don’t act within 10 days, the WFP will have no choice but to suspend the assistance... that goes to nearly three million people,” the letter said. “This criminal behavior must stop immediately.”
Earlier the WFP accused the Houthis of stealing “from the mouths of hungry people” and diverting food deliveries. The agency said it obtained photographic evidence showing militias seizing food and manipulating lists of aid recipients. The WFP is helping around 8 million hungry people in Yemen and has been working to increase its scope to reach a total 12 million.