Yemen rebels agree to biometric WFP aid distribution system

The World Food Program (WFP) and Yemen’s Houthi rebels have reached an agreement to resume the delivery of food aid with biometric authentication of aid recipients, Al Jazeera reports.

The UN agency was forced to partially suspend aid deliveries to Sanaa in June after Houthi rebel leadership pulled support from biometric registration, which the rebels said was due to data control issues. The WFP has been seeking to implement biometric distribution controls after finding some aid was diverted for sale and that local officials were manipulating beneficiary selection and falsifying records.

The UN says the partial suspension of aid affected approximately 850,000 people.

A Houthi website reports that a biometric database of civilians will be used to ensure effective and efficient aid distribution, and the agreement calls for “total transparency” in registration and aid distribution. Al Jazeera reports that the parties to the armed conflict have used food aid as a political tool, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.

WFP spokesperson Herve Verhoosel called the agreement “an important step towards safeguards that guarantee the accountability of our humanitarian operation in Yemen,” and expressed hope that the technical details could be agreed to in the coming days.

A biometric aid distribution system is already in use in areas controlled by the Saudi-backed government, which was overthrown by Houthi rebels in 2014.

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