UN demands investigation into ‘criminal’ Houthi food aid theft in Yemen

Yemenis collect humanitarian aid from the World Food Program in Sanaa. (AFP/file)
Updated 01 January 2019

UN demands investigation into ‘criminal’ Houthi food aid theft in Yemen

  • Even with the influx of food aid, hunger and famine-level starvation continue to grow
  • In 2018 the UN, the US, Saudi Arabia and others poured more than $4 billion in food, shelter, medical assistance

CAIRO: The UN food agency on Monday threatened to suspend some aid shipments to Yemen if the Houthi militia do not investigate and stop theft and fraud in food distribution, warning that the suspension would effect some 3 million people.
The World Food Program's ultimatum was an unprecedentedly strong warning, pointing to how corruption has increased the threat of famine in Yemen, which faces the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
In a letter sent to militant leader Abdul-Malek Al-Houthi, WFP director David Beasley said that a survey carried by the agency showed that aid is only reaching 40 percent of eligible beneficiaries in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa. Only a third are receiving aid in the rebels' northern stronghold of Saada.
"If you don't act within 10 days, WFP will have no choice but to suspend the assistance ... that goes to nearly 3 million people," the letter said. "This criminal behavior must stop immediately."
The Iran-aligned Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen, have been at war with forces loyal to the internationally recognized government after they seized the Yemeni capital in 2014.  The stalemated conflict has driven the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine, with millions suffering from extreme hunger.
The Associated Press reported Monday that armed factions are stealing much-needed food aid, diverting it to their fighters or reselling it for profit. Some groups are blocking deliveries to communities they view as their enemies.
Earlier Monday, the WFP accused the Houthis of stealing "from the mouths of hungry people" and diverting food deliveries. The UN agency said it obtained photographic evidence showing rebels 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. It wants an overhaul of the relief system, including biometric registration, but says the rebels resist such measures.


Security Council warns of ‘risk of dispersion’ of Syria extremists

Updated 10 min 58 sec ago

Security Council warns of ‘risk of dispersion’ of Syria extremists

  • All 15 Council members including Russia agreed on the danger of Daesh regrouping

UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council warned in a unanimously adopted statement Wednesday of a risk of “dispersion” of extremist prisoners in Syria, but stopped short of calling for a halt to Turkey’s offensive against Kurdish forces there.
“Members of the Security Council expressed deep concerns over the risks of dispersion of terrorists from UN-designated groups, including ISIL,” the statement said, using an acronym for the Daesh group.
All 15 Council members including Russia, a key player in the conflict, declared themselves “very concerned (about) a further deterioration of the humanitarian situation” in northeastern Syria.
All were in agreement on the danger of Daesh regrouping, summed up a Western ambassador, who requested anonymity.
The short text proposed by France was adopted following a brief meeting held at the request of European members of the Council.
It does not condemn the Turkish offensive — which the United States is seen as having green-lighted by withdrawing troops from northeastern Syria — nor does it call for the operation to stop.
At a previous meeting late last week, Russia and China blocked the Council adoption of two separate texts calling for a halt to the offensive — one sponsored by European members Germany, Belgium, France, Britain and Poland — and the other by the United States.
Europeans and Americans on the Security Council have since been coordinating their efforts more closely, said a Western diplomat under cover of anonymity.
Almost a week of deadly bombardment and fighting in northeastern Syria has killed dozens of civilians, mostly on the Kurdish side, and prompted at least 160,000 to flee their homes.
The Turkish invasion has also forced the withdrawal of several non-governmental organizations providing assistance to victims of the Syrian conflict, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since 2011.