The World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday (April 29th) announced it had been forced to reduce by half the amount of food aid it provides to beneficiaries in areas of Yemen controlled by the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).
In a social media post, the UN agency explained it had made the decision, effective immediately, as it is "facing a severe lack of funding in a very difficult environment" in areas controlled by the Houthis.
"The programme has no choice but to reduce food aid [by] half to avoid a full stop in the future, which allows us to maintain a safety net for the most needy families in Yemen for as long as possible," the WFP said.
Provinces affected by the cut in aid "will be divided into two groups, and each group will receive assistance every other month instead of monthly", it said.
The first group will include al-Bayda, al-Mahwit, Amran, al-Hodeidah, Ibb, Raymah, Sanaa and Saada provinces; while the second will include al-Daleh, al-Jawf, Dhamar, Hajjah, Marib, the Sanaa administrative district and Taez.
Assistance will be provided every other month to each group until sufficient funds are secured and full operations are resumed, the agency said.
It called on the Houthis to "respect the agreements and apply the necessary confidence measures to resume funding and full operations" so the programme can respond to urgent needs in Yemen.
The WFP provides food aid to more than 12 million Yemenis a month, 80% of whom live in provinces controlled by the Houthis.
In late March, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said it would start reducing aid to Houthi-controlled areas, saying the militia had obstructed the distribution of aid and interfered in its relief work.
Other aid organisations also have threatened to cut aid deliveries in these areas.
Yemeni people will suffer
It is the Yemeni people who will suffer from any reduction in aid, Yemen's Deputy Minister of Human Rights Nabil Abdul Hafeez told Al-Mashareq, blaming the Houthis for creating the current situation.
"The WFP has acted on its previous warnings because of the Houthis' interference, the obstacles they create for aid organisations' operations and also their looting of aid," he said.
Regarding the distribution of aid, he said, the way the Houthis have treated relief organisations has "compounded the suffering of the Yemeni people", as the aid they receive has now been reduced by half.
"There must be alternative solutions to the cut," he added, suggesting there might be other ways to provide assurances to the relief agencies that the aid deliveries are reaching the intended beneficiaries.
"The WFP has announced the cut because the Houthis were looting aid under different names and using fraudulent methods to fund their war efforts and distribute some of the aid to supporters," Abdul Hafeez said.
"As an alternative to the cut, the WFP can rely on local organisations known for their integrity and independence," he suggested. "Such organisations, along with local councils, can make sure aid is delivered to beneficiaries in hand."