Some Yemeni rebel leaders block biometric registration, WFP weighs suspension of aid

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) may be forced to abandon its aid delivery in areas of Yemen controlled by Houthi rebels if obstacles continue to be imposed on its requested roll out of a biometric registration system to ensure food aid reaches the intended beneficiaries, the agency says in a statement.

The WFP called for a biometric system to be implemented in the country in January after uncovering evidence of records being falsified, beneficiary selection being manipulated, as well as aid being redirected by local officials, and in some cases sold on the open market.

In 2017, the WFP called for the Saudi-led coalition to allow the delivery of cranes to the port of Hodeidah to ensure food aid would reach some 12 million food-insecure Yemeni people – nearly half the country’s population. Some Houthi leaders have committed to creating the conditions for independent aid delivery, but others have broken assurances they gave the WFP about stopping food diversions and setting up a beneficiary identification exercise, according to the statement.

“If the beneficiary targeting and biometric exercise is not carried out as agreed, WFP will be left with no option but to suspend food distributions in the areas controlled by Ansarullah, the Houthis,” Al Jazeera reports World Food Programme Executive Director David Beasley wrote in a letter to Houthi leadership. It was the second letter requesting greater access.

The WFP says its greatest challenge in Yemen is not the continued fighting, but the “obstructive and uncooperative role of some Houthi leaders.”

“If we are not given the access and freedom to decide who gets this vital assistance, then we will have to take the hard decision of implementing a phased suspension of our operations in Houthi-controlled areas,” the agency writes in the statement.

The ethnic divisions underlying the conflict could present similar risks to those faced by Rohingya refugees, who an Oxfam report in early 2018 said could have their identity used against them due to biometric registration.

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