Reports & News

Thu - 11 Jul 2019 - 08:26 PM ،،،

 The Houthi militia in Yemen is stealing massive amounts of food aid, much of it financed by American taxpayers. As the United Nations (UN) World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley noted recently “This conduct amounts to the stealing of food from the mouths of hungry people. At a time when children are dying in Yemen because they haven’t had enough food to eat, that is an outrage. This criminal behavior must stop immediately.” UN colleagues have reported privately that up to 60 percent of the food in Sanaa is being diverted to Houthi controlled sources instead of feeding vulnerable families.

To put these diversions in context, the United States Agency for International Development reports that Yemen is the largest food security emergency in the world. Nearly 16 million people — approximately 53 percent of Yemen’s population — are food insecure. The American taxpayer, yet again, has been generous to Yemen’s most vulnerable households by providing nearly $850 million in food since 2017. 

At the end of June, WFP began a partial suspension of food delivery to 850,000 people in Sanaa. The move resulted from a dispute over control of biometric data between the WFP and the Houthis. The WFP discovered in December 2018 that donated food in Houthi areas was being “systematically diverted” — diplomatic speak for stolen. The Houthis have said the WFP insisted on controlling the data in violation of Yemeni law. The biometric system — using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition — is already used in areas controlled by Yemen’s internationally recognized government and quite broadly throughout the world of complex crises and humanitarian disasters.

Stealing food from the poorest, most vulnerable is reprehensible. Yet, these Houthi actions have larger-scale, second-order consequences. The Houthis are trading bread for guns, power and control — and further funding their war effort. Also, Houthi actions to manipulate food aid will seed grievances and foster corruption which may drive more radicalized behavior.
A version of this article appears on July. 11, 2019, on The Hill (American political newspaper and website) with the headline: Stealing from the mouths of babes in Yemen. View the original.