Yemeni Officials Accuse Houthi Rebels of Stealing Food Aid

Houthi rebels hold their weapons aloft in Sana’a, Yemen.
Hani Mohammed/AP

The internationally-recognized government of Yemen echoed on Wednesday the charges raised by a new United Nations report and accused the Iran-backed Houthi rebels of stealing food from humanitarian aid programs.

“More than 88 ships were prevented by Houthi rebels from docking at the port of Al-Hudaydah from May 2015 to December 2018. Houthi rebels also seized 697 aid shipments during the same period,” the Supreme Relief Committee of the Yemeni government said in a statement.

The government also pointed out that some of the ships off the coast of Yemen attacked by Houthi artillery were carrying humanitarian aid. Ships carrying food relief have unquestionably been attacked near Hodeidah when Houthis held the area, although the exact identity of the attackers was sometimes difficult to ascertain.

Al-Hudaydah, more commonly known outside Yemen as “Hodeidah,” is a strategically vital port city that has seen some of the heaviest fighting in the later stages of the Yemeni civil war. Both sides negotiated a cease-fire for the city in December, but the United Nations has accused them of violating it.

The Minister of State for the United Arab Emirates – a member of the Saudi-led coalition intervening on the side of the Yemeni government – on Monday accused the Houthis of sneaking fighters and other loyalists into Hodeidah disguised as local forces, making the withdrawal they promised to the United Nations entirely “theatrical.”

The U.N. World Food Program (WFP) reported on Monday that desperately needed food relief has been stolen in Houthi-controlled territory and resold for profit. Allegations have been made that militia fighters loyal to the Yemeni government seized relief supplies as well.

The U.N. sees Yemen as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with millions in desperate need of food, water, and medicine. According to one estimate, almost half of the young children in Yemen are now malnourished. Both the Saudi coalition’s blockade of Yemen, ostensibly intended to cut off the flow of Iranian weapons to the rebels, and Houthi interference have been blamed for creating the humanitarian crisis.

Houthi officials on Tuesday claimed to be “surprised” by the U.N. accusations of food theft, lashed out at the U.N. for sending “rotten food” that did not meet the standards of Houthi inspectors, and attacked aid organizations as puppets of the United States and its allies who are working to undermine the Houthi regime.

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