The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Thursday it had started a partial suspension of aid in Yemen, citing failure to reach an agreement with the Iran-aligned Houthis on controls to prevent the diversion of food away from vulnerable people.
The United Nations agency feeds more than 10 million people a month across the Arabian Peninsula's poorest nation, which is in the grip of a four-year-old civil war.
The decision affects 850,000 people in the capital Sanaa, the agency said in a statement, but the nutrition program for malnourished children, pregnant and nursing mothers will be maintained.
“The integrity of our operation is under threat and our accountability to those we help has been undermined,” the WFP said, adding that it would continue to seek cooperation from local authorities and is ready to resume food distributions once an agreement is reached.
The move resulted from a dispute over control of biometric data between the WFP and the Iran-aligned Houthi militia group, which controls the capital Sanaa.
The WFP discovered in December 2018 that donated food in Houthi areas was being systematically diverted through a local partner connected to Houthi authorities. The Houthis have said the WFP insisted on controlling the data in violation of Yemeni law.
Last month, the WFP had made a statement that it was considering suspending aid delivery in the areas under the control of Yemen’s Houthi group because of fighting, insecurity, and interference in its work.
“Humanitarian workers in Yemen are being denied access to the hungry, aid convoys have been blocked, and local authorities have interfered with food distribution,” the WFP had said in the statement last month. “This has to stop.”