Yemeni gov’t praises UN agency’ warning on aid delivery disruption in Houthi areas

Yemen’s government on Tuesday praised the “courage and responsibility” of the World Food Program (WFP), which warned that aid distribution could be suspended in the Houthi-controlled areas due to lack of cooperation from the rebel group.

The WFP said in a statement on Monday that “humanitarian workers in Yemen are being denied access to the hungry, aid convoys have been blocked and local authorities have interfered with food distribution.”

“Our greatest challenge does not come from the guns that are yet to fall silent in this conflict,” the WFP said. “Instead, it is the obstructive and uncooperative role of some of the Houthi leaders in areas under their control.”

The country’s capital Sanaa and most of Yemen’s densely populated northern provinces are controlled by the Iranian-backed Houthi group.

Commenting on the WFP’s report on Houthis’ diversion of humanitarian aid, Yemen’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “it showed the courage and responsibility of the officials running the WFP in Yemen.”

But the ministry criticized the “the silence of some humanitarian organizations in Yemen about the Houthis’ unjustified practices on diverting humanitarian aid, arresting and threating aid workers.”

The ministry called upon “the international community to take resolute measures to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches all those affected without any hindrance from the Houthis.”

In Saudi Arabia’s capital of Riyadh, Yemen’s Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik held a meeting with UN Undersecretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock to discuss the mechanisms for delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen, the state-run Saba news agency reported.

The two talked about forming “joint coordination mechanisms for delivering humanitarian assistance to those people in need for help, especially in the areas located under the control of Houthis.”

Last week, Lowcock said in a briefing to the UN Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Yemen that 10 million Yemenis are still reliant on emergency food assistance to survive, warning that “the spectre of famine still looms.”

He added that a resurgent cholera outbreak has affected already 300,000 people this year — compared to a total of 370,000 cases in the whole year of 2018.

Regarding current challenges, Lowcock said that violence still rages in many areas.

Yemen has been locked in a civil war since the Shiite Houthi rebels overran much of the country militarily and seized all northern provinces, including Sanaa, in 2014.

Saudi Arabia is leading an Arab military coalition that has intervened in Yemen’s conflict since 2015 to support the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Houthi rebels forced him into exile.

The prolonged military conflict has aggravated the suffering of Yemenis and deepened the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.