The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday accused Houthi rebels of “criminal behavior” in diverting humanitarian aid in war-stricken Yemen and threatened to end cooperation with them.
A large part of the food aid meant to help residents in the capital Sanaa has not reached them, the Rome-based WFP said in a statement.
Instead, reports had established some of the food had been put on sale in Sanaa markets by a rebel-controlled organization which the WFP had entrusted to distribute the aid in the city.
The WFP said similar cases had been reported in other areas of the country controlled by the rebels.
“This conduct amounts to the stealing of food from the mouths of hungry people,” WFP Executive Director David Beasley said in the statement.
“At a time when children are dying in Yemen because they haven’t enough food to eat, that is an outrage. This criminal behaviour must stop immediately,” Beasely said.
He also called on the Houthi authorities “to take immediate action to end the diversion of food assistance.”
“Unless this happens, we’ll have no option but to cease working with those who’ve been conspiring to deprive large numbers of vulnerable people of the food on which they depend,” he said.
The Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the Saudi-supported government agreed on a ceasefire which went into effect on December 18 but tensions remain high amid charges of bad faith by both sides.
Years of civil war have devastated Yemen, leaving perhaps 20 million people in need of food aid, according to the U.N.
Why This Matters
Save the Children, an international children’s rights organization, used data compiled by the United Nations to track mortality rates for children under five-years-old diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition.
Tamer Kirolos, the county director for Save the Children in Yemen, said “We are horrified that some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died because of extreme hunger since the war began. For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable.”
U.N. chief Antonio Guterres warned earlier this month that “much worse” lay in store for Yemen in 2019 unless its warring parties strike a peace deal and head off a humanitarian crisis.
A high number of Yemenis have been dying in “very dramatic circumstances” as a result of food shortages, Guterres told a news conference in Doha.
The United Nations brokered a ceasefire accord between the internationally-recognized government and Iran-aligned Huthi rebels to end hostilities in the flashpoint port city of Hodeida. The deal followed a week of negotiations in Sweden as the United Nations bids to end the war in impoverished Yemen.
“The fact that famine was not yet declared does not in any way diminish our huge concern with a very high level of hunger that exists in Yemen” and “people dying in very dramatic circumstances,” said Guterres. “Without peace, we will be facing in 2019 a much worse situation than today.”
The war in Yemen might be the worst humanitarian crisis in a century — since the president won't stop U.S. involvement, Congress has to act pic.twitter.com/wwZpmlL3Mf
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) December 16, 2018
More on the Subject
Under Houthi authority, forced disappearances, torture and executions have become a greater risk for Yemenis, who are already plighted by critical humanitarian conditions, with the rebel faction tightening its grip over its remaining territories in a bid to crush dissent and opposition to its rule.