The head of the United Nations food agency launched  a blistering attack on Houthi rebels in Yemen on Monday, accusing the Iranian-aligned terrorist group of diverting critical food deliveries from the country’s starving population.
At a time 20 million Yemenis are food-insecure and on the brink of famine, the executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP), David Beasley, said the organization had found “serious evidence” that food supplies had been diverted in the capital, Sana’a and other Houthi-controlled regions.
The agency therefore warned of a possible suspension of all aid deliveries if safe delivery is not assured immediately.
“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,” Beasley told the Security Council. “If and when we do initiate suspension, we will continue our nutrition program for malnourished children, pregnant women, and new mothers.”
He described the humanitarian situation in Yemen as “catastrophic,” adding that “despite the immense suffering of 20 million Yemenis who do not have enough to eat, we continue to face fierce resistance to simply to do our job to keep people alive.”
Beasley told the Security Council that 33% of those surveyed by the agency in Saada, a Houthi-controlled area in the north, had not received aid and that WFP detected 33 instances of misappropriation of food. In addition, he said, 66% of staff monitoring visits had been blocked by the Iranian-aligned terrorist group.
Four years of brutal civil war have pushed Yemen, which was already one of the poorest Arab states, to the brink of famine. According to the UN, 80% of the Yemeni population needs some form of humanitarian assistance and two-thirds of all districts in the country are in a “pre-famine” state.
Last month, Beasley voiced concern that the organization’s public criticism of the Houthi leadership could result in even less access for humanitarian workers to vulnerable populations but said his agency had simply run out of options.