Twenty-two humanitarian organizations operating in Yemen have collectively appealed to the Iran-backed Houthis and the World Food Programme to swiftly resolve their disagreement over aid distribution. Urgency is emphasized to avert a looming threat of widespread starvation among the population.
The WFP suspended the distribution of humanitarian aid in areas under Houthi control last week, citing funding shortages and a dispute with the Houthis as the reasons.
The Houthis denied a UN proposal to reduce the number of recipients of aid from 9.5 million to 6.5 million, the organization said, following nearly a year of negotiations.
The 22 international organizations, which included Islamic Relief, OXFAM, Save the Children, Qatar Charity, and others, expressed “grave” concern about the impact of the food delivery suspension on Yemen’s already dire humanitarian situation in the Houthi-controlled areas.
“After years of conflict and economic decline, food aid is a lifeline for millions of Yemenis and suspending it as the country works toward peace is a catastrophic scenario. We understand the fears and concerns of the affected Yemeni people, and we stand in solidarity with them,” the organizations said in their joint appeal.
To avert an impending famine in war-torn Yemen, the organizations proposed that the WFP and the Houthis reach an agreement that would allow humanitarian aid delivery to resume in Sanaa and other Houthi-controlled districts and that international donors quickly mobilize additional funding to reduce the impact of the aid suspension, focusing on food, health, and cash aid.
“The sooner an agreement is reached, the more likelihood of averting the risk of famine conditions returning to Yemen,” the statement continued.
Yemen’s war, which began in late 2014 after the Houthis seized power militarily, has resulted in the death of tens of thousands of Yemenis and has triggered what the UN has described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The WFP dispute with the Houthis is the latest in a series of incidents in which the militia has harassed humanitarian workers and obstructed the delivery of assistance in Yemen.
In their latest report on Yemen, the UN Panel of Experts said that life-saving humanitarian goods and medicine have expired before reaching their intended recipients due to the Houthis’ obstruction of aid delivery.
The panel also accused the Houthis of diverting humanitarian funding to their backers and selling aid items in detention centers, in addition to removing the names of those who oppose their policies from the list of aid recipients.