The World Food Programme has struck a deal with Yemen’s Houthi rebels to continue providing food aid to Sanaa, the country’s capital, where 850,000 people are in urgent need of assistance amid the ongoing civil war, according to Al Jazeera.
The aid had been suspended in June because of allegations that Houthi rebels, who control the city, routinely steal and divert food supplies for profit and a related disagreement over a plan to roll out a biometric tracking system to prevent the theft of food. The Houthis denied the allegations of theft and said that scanning biological markers of people in a humanitarian disaster would be a violation of their human rights and could lead to unintended consequences.
The biometric system, however, is being used in other parts of Yemen and has been useful in helping humanitarian workers efficiently and accurately disseminate supplies, according to the WFP.
The Houthis also said that earlier shipments of food aid had been spoiled by the time they reached people in need, an allegation confirmed by the World Food Program, which said that long delays created by the conflict caused some supplies to go bad.
In addition to nutrient-dense food, the WFP also delivers cash to food insecure communities so that people can buy items from local vendors. Going forward, the Houthis said they will assist in this project.
The two sides are still working out technical details for the delivery of supplies before families begin receiving assistance, a process that will likely take a few days, according to Yahoo.
"[This is] an important step towards safeguards that guarantee the accountability of our humanitarian operation in Yemen,” Herve Verhoosel, WFP spokesman, told the Associated Press.
The situation in Yemen has been called the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
More than 22 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance. An internationally backed bombing campaign, largely fueled by US weapons of war, has destroyed essential infrastructure, devastated the economy, killed tens of thousands of civilians, and led to health contagions. An estimated 17.8 million people don’t have enough food, 8.4 million are severely food insecure, 16 million lack access to clean water and adequate sanitation, and 16.4 million have no access to quality health care.
The WFP plans to reach 12 million people with food aid by the end of the year, a goal that will be much easier if the Houthi rebels join the effort.