Yemeni Shiite Houthi rebels gather in the port city of Hodeidah, on December 29, 2018. Image Credit: AFP

Reports by the World Food Programme of widespread theft of food aid in Yemen by Iran-backed Al Houthis shows the true nature of the militants.

For years now, the Saudi-led coalition and the Yemeni government have sounded the alarm that this crime is taking place in the country.

While international media often pointed to the coalition’s closure of sea and airports, they neglected to dig deeper to understand why this was taking place.

Now it is evident that this was done in reaction to Al Houthis’ unlawful hijacking of aid, which instead of going to Yemeni civilians in dire need, went to sustain its war efforts instead.

The WFP report also could be the beginning of wider investigation of Al Houthi abuses when it comes to international aid and relief efforts in the country.

With the Yemen war soon entering its fourth year, the humanitarian situation in the country is at its most critical.

Some 16 million people face severe food insecurity which makes the need for accountability over such crimes of utmost importance.

Following an investigation by the Associated Press, the admission by the World Food Programme this week that food aid was being stolen has led to the UN food agency admitting that in other areas hungry people “had been denied full rations”.

In a statement the UN agency said: “The misappropriation of food relief came to light in a WFP review conducted during recent months. It was prompted by an increasing number of reports of humanitarian food for sale on the open market in the capital. What the checks unearthed was fraud being perpetrated by at least one local partner organisation tasked by WFP with handling and distributing its food assistance.”

“Records indicate that, during the months of August and September, about 1,200 metric tonnes of food were illicitly removed from storage and distributed or sold to people not entitled to receive the commodities. Other inquiries showed only one-third of the intended ration was being provided to registered beneficiaries in Saada.”

David Beasley, WFP’s executive director, said: “At a time when children are dying in Yemen because they haven’t enough food to eat, that is an outrage. This criminal behaviour must stop immediately.”

Finally, an international organisation is coming down hard on Al Houthis, something which has been absent for much too long.

More international condemnation is needed to call the militant group out on its barbaric and criminal policies at the expense of the Yemeni people.