ـFood aid theft and relief work violations is a threat for famine in Yemen : The relief officer: the people starved ; Organizations reply: the ongoing conflict make our mission harder andThe situation in Hudayda is the worst
ـ the general coordinator of Yemen's Higher Relief Committee, confirmed that: We found 2,000 stolen food baskets in the area of Hayes, it stolen by Houthi who backed by Iran
Yemen – 13 April 2019: Relief and humanitarian aid in Yemen is highly problematic. The amounts of money that allocated, whether from the international community or regional organizations, is huge, reached $2.1 billion last year.
If you compare these amounts of money to the situations of Yemenis, you will find a large gap. Based on the views of random sectors from five governorates, relief does not reach many Yemenis, or is taken by Houthis, who do not hand over any part to non-followers. When we looked at the details of the crisis, we found out that ,for example, 80 percent of the aids reaches Houthis from the international organizations, through Al-Hudaydah port, a time when the governorate suffers from a major famine.
The final situation is a number of governorates suffer from acute hunger. In Hodeidah there is a famine, malnutrition in Lahj, and families sleeping for nights without food, in ID Pcamps, streets, houses and hospitals.
The big gap between the reported relief numbers and the situation on the ground raises several questions: Where do the relief funds go? What are the channels and mechanisms through which they reach Yemenis?
Relief convoys and their workers are subjected to attacks and violations, ranging from detention to payment of royalties and stealing relief supplies to sell them on the black market, in addition to the risks that humanitarian workers are subjected to, most recently the death of Hanna Lahoj at the Red Cross organization.
there are 65 vessels detained between 2015 and 2018ـAccording to the statistics of the Higher Relief Committee ـ During the same period, 615 relief trucks were seized and four of them were detonated, in addition to attacks on 16 UN organizations and their personnel. The attacks ranged from murder, to kidnapping and forcibly closing the offices. The violations were concentrated in Sana'a, Taiz, Hodeidah and Ibb.
Food crisis is a humanitarian disaster
The United Nations also announced that the humanitarian needs in Yemen for this year amount to $2.96 billion, $2.1 billion of which has already been collected, while the other countries pledged the remaining amount. How are these amounts distributed? What are the guarantees that it will reach the beneficiaries?
On the other hand, the international organizations are accused of delivering the relief material to the Houthis, who steal and sell it on the black market. According to the Yemeni Higher Relief Committee, 13,815 food baskets were stolen and looted by the Houthis, and they were traded in the black market during the three years - from 2015 to 2018.. Eyewitnesses confirmed that they are sold with the logo of the organization that distributed them, why then do international organizations continue to grant them to the Houthis?
We had many questions for officials of many sectors and for international and local relief organizations.
Yemenis are starving to death!
A number of Yemenis confirmed that they do not receive any of the humanitarian aid. During our trip to Taiz,Nagia Mohammed confirmed that she finds no one to pay for her needs. She is an elderly woman aged 60 years, suffering from blood clots in the heart, and inflammation of the kidneys. She goes to Al-Thawra Hospital,many times, but cannot find medicines. In the end, she remained in her house waiting for the door to be knocked by someone willing to help her. We asked her if any of the relief organizations came to provide food or medicine. She answered, “We do not see anyone, only some of the neighbors know about me and bring food every few days. God help us”.
Relief does not reach the combat areas
Families stuck with no aid
In Taiz, there are families trapped in areas of clash with the Houthis. They also die of starvation, because the organizations cannot reach these areas, as confirmed by Mahmoud Badr, a resident of Taiz.
“In the areas close by the battle with Houthis, we were forced to stay in the house for days, and sometimes weeks without aids, as the reliefs might not reach us “Mahmoud “ says. The bitterness of living under these circumstances, without the simplest human needs can be felt in Abdallah El-Sayed’s words, one of the residents of Taiz and the only member left among his family who were dead out of hunger for days in a trench. He said “ My family, who consists of four members, was trying to survive the fire in a trench, one of many trenches dug by Yemeni people to be shelters for the families when the shelling is fierce. My family fled from Mortar shellfire. Due to the lack of aids in these areas, they tried to survive in that trench to be able to flee out of Taiz; however, they failed and they had to stay there for days till they died out of hunger”.
Displaced from Hodaidah : no milk for toddlers
Am Hassan ـ he is a displaced from Hodaidah ـ summarized The suffering of people in Hodaidah , We found him was sitting in the street. We went to him. He told us, "I fled to Aden two weeks ago after my family and I spent a hard period. The Houthi attack violently and take away children and young men from the streets for recruitment and use them as human shields in the war. They kill anyone who tries to escape from the front. That is why my children fled to Aden." he said.
He added,“We live in hunger, deprivation, and sickness. There is no milk for toddlers. The Houthi also steal relief supplies, and people suffer from famine, especially in the countryside, in particular the village of Ein Zabib, where there is no food or work. Even goods are sold in double the prices. For example the price of one kilo of rice reached 500 rials and the price of Gas is 800 rials for one liter.
Jamal al-Faqih, the general coordinator of Yemen's Higher Relief Committee, confirmed that the main offices of international organizations are based in Sana'a, and demanded returning them back to Aden to be close to the process of sending and distributing relief.
Al-Faqih said, There are many entities and countries send humanitarian aid to Yemen. Our task is to coordinate, open channels for aid providers to deliver their aid to places where it is needed. As for the international organizations, they operate under the auspices of the OCHA, which includes 13 organizations with 34 European sub-organizations, and from 15 to 20 effective civil society organizations.
The relief distribution mechanism
He explained the relief distribution mechanism, saying, " The United Nations is to declare and approve annually a public response plan that includes the actual needs of Yemenis based on researches by civil society organizations and local authorities. The amount needed this year is while last year was 2.96 billion dollars, and in 2017 it was 2.1 billion, Relief is then distributed through organizations.
He added, “We use the help of our local partners in places under the control of Houthis in order to deliver relief there, We distributed relief in Hodeidah and Tahiti ,Although it is close to the Hodeidah port, which receives 80 percent of UN Relief , and There are 18 liberated governorates that receive their relief through 37 land crossings, and the ports of Aden, Mukalla, Jizan and Al-Mocha. We are counting on international organizations to deliver aid to areas under the control of the Houthis, because Arab organizations are subjected to serious violations, including 65 vessels that have been detained, and 565 food convoys have been subjected to violations of the Houthis during three years from 2015 to 2018.”
As for the situation of Hodeidah, Al-Faqih said,”It is suffering from famine, Hodeidah is a disaster. The need is very large. We rely on international organizations to reach it.. There is also the crisis of displaced people from Hodeidah, as there are 3 million displaced people, including 6,000 in Aden and 5,000 in Marib,and unfortunately there are no special camps for them.We rely on international organizations to set up a center to receive the refugees from Hodeidah for examination and redistribution,.
As for the aid by international organizations, al-Faqih said, “Unfortunately, international organizations are under pressure because their headquarters are in Sana'a. Hence, the biggest part of the relief is handed over to the Houthis and is distributed through their associations and mechanisms.”
food Theft of Yemenis!
“We found 2,000 stolen food baskets in the area of Hayes, In Abyan it stolen by Houthi who backed by Iran, five convoys loaded with UNICEF food stuffs were seized, smuggled from Sana'a to be sold in the markets of Aden. Medical aids of the Yemenis are also stolen. We have listed these violations in a memorandum submitted to the United Nations representative, The United Nations organizations, despite the violations they suffer, have not issued a single statement of these violations. They insist on silence despite all violations of humanitarian action. There is a defect in the work of the international organizations during the war.”
He added,”We need more outlets to facilitate relief access to all areas of Yemen”.
Feedback from international organizations
We talked to some international organizations that are working in Yemen to know their response to what was raised concerning the theft of relief supplies, their cooperation with the Houthi side, and their weak presence in Yemen. Some of it, such as the OCHA and the Red Cross, refused to respond to questions about their work in Yemen, and the accusations of appeasing the Houthi side due to the presence of their headquarters in Sana'a.
UNICEF stressed to us its commitment to deliver its aid to all needy areas in Yemen, and therefore needs to deliver large supplies through ports and airports. They are distributed across the country as needed, but the continuation of the conflict is one of the main obstacles to humanitarian action, it makes its mission harder. There are also logistical constraints; the transfer of supplies between cities and governorates is hard because of fuel cuts, high prices, and the security risks.
UNICEF has indicated that there are coordinating bodies negotiating with various authorities in Yemen, as well as the Arab Coalition Forces, to facilitate movement and procedures. UNICEF is also in direct coordination with relevant authorities in the sectors in which it operates.Such as, education, health, water, sanitation, social services, and others.
humanitarian response plan
With regard to the organization's budget for Yemen, UNICEF explained that the funding of the humanitarian response plan in Yemen depends on donations from donors. For example, UNICEF launched its 2017 humanitarian response plan in Yemen for $339 million, while it costs $ 278 million for the year 2018. These amounts are distributed to UNICEF's various sectors, including health, nutrition, water, environmental sanitation, protection, education, research and studies .
UNICEF commented on the issue of its handing over a large part of the aid to the Houthis in the areas under their control, which -consequently- do not reach the masses of Yemenis, saying, “Aid is distributed through local and international partners, and despite the extremely complex field difficulties, it reaches the affected and the needy in the end. We secure the basic needs of the Yemeni child. UNICEF works with all authorities, and in various governorates. UNICEF added, “The humanitarian situation in Hodeidah is the worst, but the situation is also bad in other areas”. There is poverty and chronic developmental failure. Also, the negative impact on families cannot be overlooked due to the suspension of salaries of state employees for more than a year and a half now. It should also be noted that humanitarian aid cannot be an alternative to the basic social services provided by the national bodies of the state. This is especially true in light of the deterioration of the health, water and social welfare sectors. Also the continuation of the war, the high prices and the deterioration of the national economy, make relief efforts seem limited."
World Food Program: Conditions in Yemen were bad before war
For his part, Ashraf Hamouda, one of representative of the World Food Program, said: "We are the largest organization working in Yemen for 20 years, not only in food distribution, but we are responsible for logistical work in 19 governorates, such as delivering fuel to hospitals and basic facilities. wthin the three years from 2015 to 2018, we distributed 1 million and 253 thousand tons of food, an average of 15 million food baskets on an average of 12 million Yemenis, who are the neediest.” , WFP launched its 2019 humanitarian response plan in Yemen for $380 million.
He stressed that the situation in Yemen is bad before by the events of the war, adding: “But so far we have not declared that there are areas in Yemen suffering from starvation; we reach all areas all areas even Sana'a and Taiz “.
mechanism of aid access to Sana'a, Taiz
Commenting on the citizens' complaints of the lack of sufficient relief organizations, Hamouda said, "We do not have sufficient budget, despite the big support of many parties, but the need is great, and we try to cover what we can.”
As for the mechanism of aid access to Sana'a, Taiz and Hodeidah, areas under the control of the Houthis, or areas of clash with them, Hamouda explained: “We have local partners on the ground that facilitate the arrival of this aid, because our goal is the Yemeni citizen, and we deal with all parties. In the end, the distribution is under the supervision of the World Food Program. As for what is said about the Houthis stealing food aid, it is not proven so far. We are keen to track the arrival of food for citizens. We will soon apply the electronic fingerprint system upon receipt of the food basket to ensure that it reaches the beneficiary.”
Relief worker in Taiz: The people are hungry
Lilian al-Shamdari, one of relief officer in Taiz,described the humanitatrian situation there ,saying: " The people in Taiz are currently hungry. There are cities and areas in Taiz that have not seen food aid since the war has begun, because the situation was random, and international organizations cannot enter the areas of engagement or conflict. Now the World Food Program is cooperating with us.”
As for their suffering in the field of humanitarian work in Yemen, Lilian confirmed: "We are subject to death anytime during our work and face many violations during our work. I obliged to enter the areas under the control of Houthis an undisclosed manner,for fear of violations, Also we face the indiscriminate shelling ,there is in my house the walls have signs of bullets, this is a great suffering for the people of Taiz.”
more than this, we face difficulties to reach the target areas, For example, to reach Al-Houbane, which is an area 10 minutes from my house, I have to take a complicated route for 7 hours, because of the Houthis’ control.
As for the role of international organizations in Yemen, Lilian said: "Their role is limited, where are these organizations of the hungry people in Taiz?!, although Taiz is allocated the largest proportion of aid, because the population here is one fifth of the Yemeni people. We do not know where the aid goes. The aid arrives in two ways: either through the port of Hodeidah to Al-Houbane, and from there to Taiz, or through local organizations and merchants, as international organizations do not want to enter Taiz, with the pretext of the lack of security.
Lilian explains, "We have suggested to the OCHA office that the aid be delivered through Aden, not through Al-Houbane. They refused because Taiz is administratively affiliated with Ibb, and aid cannot be passed through Aden.The leader of the Taiz axis also asked the UN to open a new passage for aid, and for people who can’t find safe passages to leave or enter Taiz, but they suggested another route, but its disadvantage is that it is far.” Lilian stressed that politics plays a large role in directing international organizations.
Abdul Malek Saad,relief worker, the government coordination officer with international relief organizations, said “we are subjected to violations and attacks everyday during our work.
He added that the organizations operating are the World Food Program and Doctors without Borders for medical relief. The rest is disproportionate to the suffering of the people here. Some attributes this limited presence to the difficulties because of the rough road, and that there are elements of Al Qaida on the road to Taiz. and what we are currently suffering is the indiscriminate shelling.
On the edge of death Violations of humanitarian work in Yemen
Dr. Arafat Al-Humair, head of Rasd organization for human rights, confirmed that the international organizations support the Houthis. As most of the aid is sent through the port of Hodeidah which under their control, although they distribute it on the fronts and not to civilians. UNICEF and WHO continue to monitor the largest number of people exposed for malnutrition diseases in Ibb, Hodeidah, Sa'ada, Amran and Sana'a, which indicates that the relief does not reach the people.
Mohammed al-Muqrami, head of Scoop Center for Humanitarian and Humane Studies in Yemen, said: " There has to be a rigid control system to monitor the relief organizations and their local agents to ensure that the aids reaches the beneficiaries.. The humanitarian situation in Yemen is dire. More than 10 million children are in need of medical care and are suffering from malnutrition”. According to UN reports.
challenges of relief
One of officials for Monitoring and Evaluation of Relief Projects in Yemen, Dr. Ihab Al-Qerashy, confirmed that the lack of reports on humanitarian work and accurate field surveys, according to systematic statistical studiesـ due to difficult access to the areas of clash ـ have a negative impact on the relief work, which confuse the workers in this field. So we decided to establish Center for The monitoring to solve many problems in the humanitarian work in Yemen, with more than 360 points of contact to enable it to conduct field surveys and check the lists of needs for all governorates, Accordingly, accurate distribution plans are be prepared.
Medical relief is also are stolen!
Houthi who backed by Iran not only looted and seized food convoys, but also medical convoys. The crisis, as summarized by the Yemeni Minister of Health, Dr. Nasser Baoum, is that the Houthis seize the medicines and sell them on the black market at double the price, or store them in the wrong way so they become stale and they then distribute it to the people. The other part they take to the soldiers who fight with them on the fronts and prevent the rest of the people from getting it.
22 million Yemenis need relief
We interviewed the Minister of Local Administration and Chairman of the Higher Committee for Relief in Yemen Abdulraqib Fath,He confirmed that The humanitarian situation in Yemen cannot be separated from the political situation. The suffering started only after the war that led to humanitarian disasters. According to UN reports, 22 million Yemenis need relief, including 7 millions who are threatened with famine, and about 2 million children on the edge of death due to malnutrition." Therefore, all the efforts made are not enough.
He added, there is intransigence by the Houthis towards all organizations, including international organizations.WFP also is exposed to violations during its work in Yemen, although it does not announce this, even though we have documents. And reports have been submitted to the UN of the Houthi violations against relief organizations, including the detention of 250 WFP convoys.They violate international law and the criteria for dealing with relief workers.
He added,”We deliver aid to the governorates under the control of the Houthis, in partnership with local organizations. and I affirm that without the intervention and support of the Arab sister countries, 70% of Yemenis will be starving.
He said,the Houthi invests Yemeni aid in the war effort, which is clear by the famine in Hodeidah, which has the largest store of world food, and 80% of the relief vessels.
As for the solutions for that problems, Fath said,” centralization that facilitated the Houthis' seizure of relief aid, so we have introduced decentralization in relief work through establishing five relief centers in Yemen, each covering a number of governorates. thus nullifying the work of the Houthis against the relief convoys, because the distances will be closer.
He confirmed that the presence of UN in Yemen is important but they commit some wrong practices, and they should stop handing over relief to those who steal it. The U N is responsible for reaching the depth of the conflict areas even in Taiz”.
He added ,” UN organizations are under the pressures of the Houthis due to the presence of their headquarters and offices in Sana'a under the control of the Houthis. The Houthis have previously attacked the representative of the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and prevented him from visiting Taiz, which is granted protection by international conventions, so the UN should declare these violations.
As for Taiz crisis,he said “The crisis in Taiz runs deep, with some 4200 thousand citizens, 2200 thousand students who do not attend schools and 3200 thousand displaced people, including people in Somalia, Djibouti and neighboring areas. it is going through the most difficult circumstances. There is a solution to the problem of Taiz relief through the effective presence of UN organization in Aden.
This report is a part of a series of investigative report ,”Yemen: War Atrocities in the Land of Fear”A 30 ـ Day, by Iman Hanna .Hanna has taken a 30-day trip to monitor the suffering of the people during the war .