UNITED NATIONS, June 17 (Xinhua) -- The head of the World Food Programme (WFP) on Monday lashed out at Houthi rebels in Yemen for misappropriating aid supplies.
"Today, I am sad to report that the World Food Programme is being prevented from feeding the hungriest people in Yemen. Food assistance provided by the United Nations is being diverted in areas controlled by Ansar Allah at the expense of hungry children, women and men," David Beasley told the United Nations Security Council, using the formal name of the Houthi rebels.
"The humanitarian situation in Yemen is dire. And despite the immense suffering of the 20 million Yemenis who do not have enough to eat, we continue to face fierce resistance to simply just do our job to keep people alive," he said.
Beasley said the Houthi rebels have repeatedly refused to allow the WFP to operate independently, which is a necessary condition to ensure that aid reaches the people in real need.
"No matter where we operate, we must be able to operate independently so that we can identify and verify those who need assistance. And we have to put in place monitoring systems to ensure that those people truly get the food they need."
These systems help ensure that others cannot deprive people of the food they deserve to stay alive, and that the food does not support political agendas, he said.
"We are now feeding more than 10 million people a 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 the most. Why? Because we are not allowed to operate independently, and because aid is being diverted for profit and/or other purposes."
Food is being taken from the mouths of hungry little girls and little boys who need it just to survive, he noted.
Beasley warned that the WFP will have to begin a phased suspension of food assistance, most likely toward the end of the week unless it receives the necessary assurances from the Houthis.
"If and when we do initiate suspension, we will continue our nutrition program for malnourished children, pregnant women and new mothers," he noted. "And we will also keep pushing to get an agreement. We want to resolve this quickly so that people can get the help they need and the help they deserve. Then we can go back to our regular work."
He said he had tried every possible option to resolve this issue over the past 18 months.
In December 2018 and January 2019, the WFP signed agreements with the Houthi leadership on beneficiary registration, beneficiary targeting and biometrics -- a tremendous breakthrough, he said. "It seemed like we were able to move forward. But every time we got close to actually putting those agreements into place, there would be a new roadblock."
He gave multiple examples of suspected aid misappropriation in Houthi-controlled areas.
In Houthi-controlled Sanaa city, a number of beneficiaries told the WFP that they had not received any food assistance. Yet the distribution list contained their thumbprints, as if they had.
The WFP interviewed beneficiaries at seven centers at Sanaa city. As much as 60 percent confirmed that they had not received any assistance.
And in just the last 60 days, the WFP hotline and monitoring system has detected more than 30 cases of possible misappropriation of food in Houthi-controlled areas, he said.
Diversion is not limited only to Houthi-controlled areas. But when the WFP faces challenges in government-controlled areas, it has received cooperation to address the issues, he said.
Like in every war, there are people who stand to make a profit and they will do everything to obstruct and delay aid, said Beasley. "They know that children are dying. They know that families are suffering because they aren't getting the food they need."
He said the United Nations should not allow this to happen. "This is not just about Yemen. This is about the integrity of the entire United Nations and the humanitarian systems around the world. That's what is at stake."
In an emotional plea, he said: "I am begging the Houthis and all of those concerned to do all within your power to let us do what we do: save lives."
"In Yemen, we are fortunate enough to have the money. We just don't have the access," said Beasley.