Yemen’s Houthi militia, accused of diverting humanitarian aid in the war-torn country, claimed Friday that the World Food Programme lacked neutrality, after it won the Nobel Peace Prize for fighting global hunger.
Meanwhile, Yemen’s internationally-recognized government welcomed the choice of winner, pointing to the “wise and courageous” leadership of the UN agency’s executive director, David Beasley.
Iran-backed Houthi militia has been fighting for control of Yemen since 2014.
An Arab military coalition intervened in support of the government the following year.
“We find that the WFP has largely failed in the biggest task for which it was chosen (for the Nobel Peace Prize), and that is combatting hunger,” Talaat al-Sharjabi, a Houthi spokesman, told AFP shortly after the announcement.
“A large number of people suffer from malnutrition... and there is also a failure on the WFP’s part to be neutral in terms of humanitarian aid distribution,” he said.
Yemen’s government, meanwhile, praised the organization.
“The WFP plays a pivotal role in relief efforts in Yemen... and has been able to impose its conditions on the Houthi and implement different programs,” the chairman of Yemen’s relief committee, Abdul Raqib Fateh, told AFP.
The WFP has had a troubled relationship with the insurgents, who control much of the north of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
At the end of 2018, the UN organization accused the rebels of “criminal behavior” and of selling food aid, to which the Huthis responded by claiming that the WFP was sending “rotten food.”
The organization halted deliveries in Houthi-controlled areas for two months last year as it pushed for a biometric registration scheme to avoid the diversion of supplies.