U.S.-Backed Troops Are Stealing Yemen’s Food Aid

U.S. and Saudi-backed fighters in the Yemen are siphoning off vast quantities of food aid, depriving millions of starving citizens of vital rations, aid workers say. Nabil al-Hakimi, a senior humanitarian official in Taiz, one of Yemen’s largest cities, told the AP: “The army that should protect the aid is looting the aid.” An AP investigation found that food aid is being used as a political weapon, with groups suspected of disloyalty blocked from receiving supplies. AP reports that while lost and stolen aid is common in areas controlled by Yemen’s government, which is supported by the Saudi-led military coalition, the problem is even worse in territories controlled by Houthi rebels. In the stronghold of Saada, for example, the U.N. has sometimes sent enough food to feed twice its population, yet 65 percent of residents are facing severe food shortages, including at least 7,000 people in a state of famine. Yemen has received more than $4 billion in food, shelter, medical and other aid, but more than half of the population is not getting enough to eat. Of Yemen’s 29 million people, 10.8 million are in an “emergency” phase of food insecurity, 5 million are in a deeper “crisis” phase, and 63,500 are facing “catastrophe,” a synonym for famine, AP says. The Save the Children charity estimates that 85,000 children under the age of 5 have died from starvation or disease since the start of the war. David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.’s food program, told AP that diverting food aid was “a disgrace,” saying, “it’s criminal, it’s wrong, and it needs to end. Innocent people are suffering.”