An Associated Press investigation has found that more than a dozen United Nations aid workers deployed to deal with the humanitarian crisis caused by five years of conflict in Yemen are being accused of graft to enrich themselves from an international outpouring of donated food, medicine, fuel and money.
A probe by UN agency, UNICEF, focuses on a staffer who allowed a Houthi militia leader to travel in agency vehicles, shielding him from potential airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. The individuals who spoke to the AP about the investigations did so on condition of anonymity, fearing reprisals.
According to three people with knowledge of the probe, internal auditors at UNICEF are investigating Khurram Javed, a Pakistani national suspected of letting a senior Houthi official use an agency vehicle.
That effectively gave the Houthi official protection from airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis, since UNICEF clears its vehicles’ movements with the coalition to ensure their safety.
Javed was well known for his close ties to Houthi security agencies; he boasted that he used his connection to prevent UNICEF auditors from entering the country, a former co-worker and an aid official said. The Houthi militias even put up a large billboard of him on a Sanaa street, thanking him for his services.
Javed could not be reached for comment. UNICEF officials confirmed that as part of an ongoing probe, an investigative team had traveled to Yemen to look into the allegations. They said Javed has been transferred to another office but did not disclose the location.
A confidential report by a UN panel of experts on Yemen, obtained by the AP, said Houthi authorities constantly pressure aid agencies, forcing them to hire loyalists, intimidating them with threats to revoke visas and aiming to control their movements and project implementation.
An official said the UN’s inability or unwillingness to address the alleged corruption in its aid programs harms the agency’s efforts to help Yemenis affected by the war.
“This is scandalous to any agency and ruins the impartiality of UN,” the aid official said.