CNN reveals how Houthis turned food aid into a weapon of war

A Houthi soldier walks next to humanitarian aid supplies in a camp on the outskirts of the capital Sanaa on March 16, 2017. (AFP)

The United Nations, primarily the World Food Program, has been providing aid to millions in need of proper nutrition in Yemen but according to a new report, a significant part of this has been stolen by the Houthis.

The CNN report says that the Houthis have stolen around 1,200 metric tons of aid in the form of food in the capital alone.

According to the report, this trend has been around for a while, with the UN releasing a report in 2018 claiming that 1 percent of its aid was not going to their allocated areas. But in reality, many families are not being helped.”

The Houthis control the aid agency that was appointed by the WFP to distribute the aid. The stealing is only adding to the misery of a country struggling with poverty and conflict.

The UN suspects that the aid is stolen in order to be diverted from children to fighters or Houthis supporters.

CNN said that Issham and the people of Bani Qais did not receive any aid “ they have received no grain, cooking oil or other aid supplies” for many weeks.

The Arab Coalition in Yemen has repeatedly said that Houthis have been blocking the passage of aid ships.

Also, the Coalition has said that the Houthis were not pulling out from Hodeidah and its port, and were obstructing the work of the UN mission in Yemen and also blocking the passage of vessels carrying aid to the country's ports.

It asserted in many statements that Houthi militias deliberately disable ships and unload their cargo in Hodeidah and Salif ports.

The theft that took place

The diverted aid was initially shielded from the WFP by the use of fake records and false thumbprints confirming the handout of the aid, which was being sold in the city rather than being given to those villages in need.

Amira Saleh, a woman whose name has been listed for aid and was even said to have received $440 has claimed that she did not receive any aid for half a year. Other women said that the aid that they were entitled to was denied to them due to lack of records that they had left behind in the cities they had fled. This was another excuse that the Houthis used to divert the aid, selling it to gain political support.

Also, a local NGO worker in Sanaa was questioned by security after speaking to CNN without the presence of the government minder.

The UN response

The UN is concerned with the lack of aid reaching the citizens that require it.

Although they agreed on a new system of aid distribution, this system has not yet been put in place. The UN has also insisted on monitoring the situation largely because the villages that are set to receive aid are in Houthi-controlled territories, such as Saada.

Hussin Al-Ezzi, the deputy foreign minister of the rebel government in Sanaa, said restrictions on visas for NGO workers have been removed.
“At the beginning, we had some reservations” about some of the international aid workers, he told CNN.

“Mistakes happen sometimes, but this doesn’t mean or doesn’t represent policy on our side. We are happy with whatever aid reaches citizens because these citizens are our strength and support. They are our capital in this war,” he said.

CNN said that in Hodeidah, a “low-level government functionary” threatened to detain its team if he did not sit in on a meeting with UN officials.

Also, a local NGO worker in Sanaa was questioned by security after speaking

The WFP switched to a different local NGO in Bani Qais, where Issham lives, but humanitarian and local sources said that aid was now being held up because local tribal leaders associated with the Houthi government were blocking its work.

As a result, the WFP said it is considering suspending aid distribution in areas controlled by Houthi militias for fear of misappropriation.
The executive director of the WFP threatened to stop sending aid to Houthi-backed organizations.

“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 said in a statement. “This has to stop.”

The highly unusual threat from the UN agency, which is feeding more than 10 million people across Yemen, reflected what it said were “obstacles that are being put in our way.”

“We face daily challenges due to the unrelenting fighting and insecurity in Yemen. And yet, our greatest challenge does not come from the guns, that are yet to fall silent in this conflict – instead, it is the obstructive and uncooperative role of some of the Houthi leaders in areas under their control.”

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Last Update: Wednesday, 20 May 2020 KSA 09:55 - GMT 06:55
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