DUBAI: The World Food Program (WFP) and Yemen’s Houthi militant group, which controls the capital Sanaa, have said they had reached a deal that could lift the UN agency’s partial suspension of aid which has affected around 850,000 people.
The UN agency halted some aid in Sanaa on June 20 out of concern that food was being diverted from vulnerable people, but said it would maintain nutrition programs for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers.
The militant group has used access to aid and food as a political tool, exacerbating what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Of Yemen’s 30 million people, three-quarters need humanitarian assistance.
Cash transfers to those in need so they can buy goods is a common method of aid distribution.
The agreement represented an important step toward safeguards that guarantee “the accountability” of the agency’s operations, said WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel.
“We are hopeful that technical details can be agreed in the coming days,” Verhoosel said in emailed comments to Reuters, without giving further details of what was agreed. The aid ban resulted from a dispute over control of biometric data between the WFP and the Houthi militants.
The WFP discovered in December 2018 that donated food in Houthi areas was being systematically diverted through a local partner connected to the group. The Houthis have said the WFP insisted on controlling the data in violation of Yemeni law.
The biometric system — using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition — is already used in areas controlled by the government that holds the southern port city of Aden and some western coastal towns.
Arab coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis, who control most large urban centers. The group says its revolution is against corruption.