UN food chief accuses Houthis of diverting Yemen aid for profit
- Tue, 18 Jun 2019 04:46
UNITED NATIONS: United Nations food chief David Beasley warned the Security Council on Monday that a phased-suspension of food assistance in Yemen was likely to begin later this week over a diversion of aid and lack of independence in Houthi-controlled areas.
He called on the Iranian-backed Houthi militia to implement agreements to allow the World Food Programme to operate independently.
“If we do not receive these assurances then we will begin a phased suspension of food assistance, most likely toward the end of this week. If and when we do initiate suspension we will continue our nutrition program for malnourished children, pregnant women and new mothers,” Beasley told the council.
Beasley said WFP had been unable to implement agreements with the Houthis on the registration of people in need and the rollout of a biometric system - using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition - to support aid delivery.
"We are now assisting feeding over 10 million people per month but as the head of the World Food Programme I cannot assure you that all the assistance is going to those who need it most," Beasley said.
"Why? Because we are not allowed to operate independently and because aid is being diverted for profit and or other purposes," he told the 15-member council.
Earlier this month Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, head of the Houthis' Supreme Revolutionary Committee, told Reuters the WFP insisted on controlling the biometric data in violation of Yemeni law.
The Houthis have previously been accused of diverting UN aid, and the WFP made a similar threat last month.
During the same briefing, UN special envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths said he was concerned about the attack on Abha airport in south-west Saudi Arabia last week, and civilian infrastructure in southern Saudi Arabia in general.
He also warned that escalating tensions in the region with Iran were hampering the political process in Yemen.
"In the context of wider regional tensions the risks to the political process have never looked more stark," Griffiths said. "I call for steps to be taken to deescalate tensions for the benefit of the Yemeni people as well as for regional security."
An agreement signed in Stockholm in December that focused on a ceasefire in Hodeidah is under increasing strain as regional tensions grow. The US and Saudi Arabia, which is part of the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, have accused Iran of attacking two tankers ib the Gulf of Oman last week.
Griffiths said that while there has been progress in a deal to redeploy forces around Hodeidah, there has been little movement on other elements of Stockholm, including the city of Taez and an exchange of prisoners.