WFP blasts Houthis for hampering rollout of aid program

Supporters of the Houthi movement take part in a protest in Sanaa, Yemen. (Reuters)
Updated 04 June 2019

WFP blasts Houthis for hampering rollout of aid program

  • Houthis were hampering the rollout of a WFP biometric system to identify those in most need

DUBAI: A dispute over control of biometric data between the World Food Programme (WFP) and Yemen’s Houthi militia is straining humanitarian efforts and threatens to disrupt aid distribution.

In an unusually strong statement the UN agency, which feeds more than 10 million people a month across the Arabian Peninsula’s poorest nation, said last month it is considering suspending deliveries due to fighting, insecurity and interference in its work.

The WFP has said the Iran-aligned Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa, were hampering the rollout of a WFP biometric system to identify those in most need.

The biometric system — using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition — is already used in areas controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government.

Sources familiar with the discussions said Houthi leaders asked the agency to stop the registration process in early April after realizing the new system bypasses Sanaa’s supervision.

Since discovering in December 2018 that donated food in Houthi areas was being systematically diverted through a local partner connected to Houthi authorities, the WFP has pressed the Houthis harder to implement a biometric registration system used globally to combat corruption in aid distribution.

“The continued blocking by some within the Houthi leadership of the biometric registration ... is undermining an essential process that would allow us to independently verify that food is reaching ... people on the brink of famine,” WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.


Hagia Sophia will open outside prayer time, says Turkey

Updated 14 July 2020

Hagia Sophia will open outside prayer time, says Turkey

  • The sixth-century Istanbul landmark’s museum status — in place since 1934 — was revoked on Friday
  • Hagia Sophia spent almost 1,000 years as a cathedral before being converted into a mosque in 1453

ISTANBUL: Turkey’s Hagia Sophia could open to visitors outside prayer times and its Christian icons will remain, religious officials said on Tuesday, after a court ruling paved the way for it to become a mosque.
The sixth-century Istanbul landmark’s museum status — in place since 1934 — was revoked on Friday and control was handed to the religious authority, Diyanet.
The decision sparked condemnation from Western governments, Russia and Christian leaders — Pope Francis saying he was “very distressed.”
Hagia Sophia spent almost 1,000 years as a cathedral before being converted into a mosque in 1453 and later a museum.
Diyanet said in a statement on Tuesday that Christian icons in Hagia Sophia were “not an obstacle to the validity of the prayers.”
“The icons should be curtained and shaded through appropriate means during prayer times,” it said.
“There is no obstacle from a religious perspective to Hagia Sophia Mosque being open to visitors outside prayer times.”
Hagia Sophia, a major tourist attraction, has been the scene of Islam-linked activities in recent years. In 2018, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan recited a verse from Qur'an at the building.
Erdogan, who said the first Muslim prayers in Hagia Sophia would begin on July 24, has insisted the building will be open to all, including non-Muslims.