Thursday 17 January 2019

'Children are left hungry as food aid to starving Yemenis stolen'

Yemeni children carry food aid distributed by a local charity in Sanaa. Photo: Getty Images
Yemeni children carry food aid distributed by a local charity in Sanaa. Photo: Getty Images

Tom Miles

Food aid meant for starving Yemenis is being stolen and sold in some areas controlled by the Houthi movement, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) said yesterday.

The Houthis control most towns and cities, including the capital Sana'a, from where they ousted Abdrabbu Mansour Hadi's government in 2014.

A Saudi-led coalition intervened against the Houthis in 2015 with the aim of restoring his government.

After hearing that humanitarian food was being sold on the open market in Sana'a, WFP said it found that at least one local partner organisation affiliated with the Houthi Ministry of Education was committing fraud.

"This conduct amounts to the stealing of food from the mouths of hungry people," WFP executive director David Beasley said.

"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."

Houthi officials contacted by Reuters did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Yemen's war and the ensuing economic collapse have left 15.9 million people, 53pc of the population, facing "severe acute food insecurity" and famine was a danger if immediate action was not taken, a survey said this month.

WFP has been trying to get food aid to as many as 12 million severely hungry people.

It said its monitors had gathered photographic and other evidence of trucks illicitly removing food from designated food distribution centres and local officials falsifying records and manipulating the selection of beneficiaries.

Mr Beasley said he was asking the Houthi authorities to make sure food reaches the people who need it.

Herve Verhoosel, WFP spokesman in Geneva, said WFP was looking at the possibility of distributing cash to needy people, if a biometric identification system could be introduced.

Irish Independent

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