Illegal Aid Diversion Starves Civilians in Yemen 

Kevin Ingenito
Staff Writer

Exacerbating what the United Nations calls “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis,” both Houthi rebel forces and the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen continue to use and abuse access to aid and food as a political tool in conflict. Reuters reports that the World Food Program (WFP) was forced to temporarily suspend operations in the famine-stricken country after reports surfaced of military leaders on both sides of the conflict diverting critical aid away from civilians.  

Although aid operations resumed last month, the thousands of Yemeni citizens who depend on the WFP as their only access to basic needs are still starving and desperate. 

Qaid is just one of the millions of Yemeni civilians struggling to feed their families. He is also one of the thousands starving from within the Houthi stronghold in Sana’a. In an interview with Voice of America, he stated “We’re sort of dependent on…leftover rice. We pay dishwashers $.80 for collecting [it.]” 

The country-wide famine first began after Iran-backed Houthi rebels attacked the allegedly corrupt Yemeni government. 

VOA reports that both sides are to blame for the lack of food in Yemen. Saudi Arabia continues its mass airstrike campaign in the region, severely limiting the starving country’s food production capabilities. Meanwhile, the rebels steal the small amount of food that remains and sell it off to fund their war efforts.

The suspension of WFP aid, however temporary it was, compounds the famine’s catastrophic impact on the civilian populace. While WFP was able to resume its operations this year, lack of funding forced many other organizations to terminate their programs entirely. According to ReliefWeb, “a staggering 22 life-saving programs will close in the next two months unless funding is received.” 

In addition to food programs, civilians also lack access to many other basic services. ReliefWeb also states that in addition to shutting down its clean water initiatives, the ongoing conflict forced the United Nations to suspend most of Yemen’s vaccination campaigns in May, leaving men, women, and children alike without access to sanitary water and medical aid. 

Faced with extremely high malnutrition rates, aid diversion issues, and mass program shutdowns, the Yemeni government is developing ‘biometric registration’ systems to guarantee civilians unimpeded access to food. With the measures such as Iris scanning, fingerprints, and facial recognition already in place in several towns and settlements throughout Yemen, the system will enhance security and ensure that food is going to civilians, not armed groups.

Even with growing support for humanitarian aid and security program enhancement, Yemen remains extremely under-funded and deprived of basic needs. As the on-going civil war places populations at increased risk of violence, more efforts must be made in the future to help improve the quality of life for all civilians in conflict.

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