AP Investigation Shows it's the Iranian Terrorists, not the Saudi Blockade, Starving Yemen

Some months the U.N. has sent enough food to feed twice that many people. Yet the latest figures from the U.N. and other relief organizations show that 65 percent of residents are facing severe food shortages,

For over a year now, the media has been filled with Iranian and Qatari propaganda claiming that the Saudi blockade of Iran's Houthi Jihadis had created a "human rights catastrophe" and famine in Yemen. This propaganda was bolstered by photos of starving children.

The Senate, including some Republicans, even voted in favor of a Qatari Senate resolution falsely blaming the Saudis for the famine. Just as in Gaza though, it's Iran's terrorists that are to blame.

And now an AP investigation has brought to light some of the reality behind the propaganda. 

Some observers have attributed the near-famine conditions in much of the country to the coalition’s blockade of ports that supply Houthi-controlled areas. AP’s investigation found that large amounts of food are making it into the country, but once there, the food often isn’t getting to people who need it most — raising questions about the ability of United Nations agencies and other big aid organizations to operate effectively in Yemen.

After the release of the AP’s investigation on Monday, the United Nations’ World Food Program for the first time directly accused the Houthi rebels of diverting aid. WFP director David Beasley said in a letter to the Houthis’ leader that if the rebels did not investigate and put an end to theft, the organization would suspend some assistance, potentially effecting nearly 3 million people.

“These incidents of fraud amount to stealing food from the mouths of hungry Yemeni children,” Beasley wrote.

The WFP said its own investigation had found “evidence of trucks illicitly removing food from designated food distribution centers” in Houthi-controlled areas as well as fraud by a local food aid distributor connected to the Houthis’ Education Ministry. It said it learned many people in the Houthi-controlled capital, Sanaa, have not been getting food rations they’re entitled to and that in other areas “hungry people have been denied full rations.”

The AP is understating its own case.

Plenty of food is reaching Yemen. The issue isn't a supposed Saudi blockade, but the Houthis diverting food for their power and profit to their supporters and their people. 

This is the same exact thing that Hamas does in Gaza.

The World Food Program has 5,000 distribution sites across the country targeting 10 million people a month with food baskets but says it can monitor just 20 percent of the deliveries.

This year the U.N., the United States, Saudi Arabia and others have poured more than $4 billion in food, shelter, medical and other aid into Yemen. That figure has been growing and is expected to keep climbing in 2019.

Despite the surge in help, hunger — and, in some pockets of the country, famine-level starvation — have continued to grow.

They've continued to grow because the more food comes in, the more the Houthis can steal in order to make money and manufacture a crisis that will be used to force the Saudis to stop bombing them. And the media outlets spreading Iranian propaganda about Yemen are guilty of complicity in the very famine that they claim to be outraged by.

In the northern province of Saada, a Houthi stronghold, international aid groups estimate that 445,000 people need food assistance. Some months the U.N. has sent enough food to feed twice that many people. Yet the latest figures from the U.N. and other relief organizations show that 65 percent of residents are facing severe food shortages, including at least 7,000 people who are in pockets of outright famine.

Plenty of food is coming through the "blockade":. It's just not getting to the people.

And the UN and aid groups are predictably reluctant to criticize the terrorist groups on the ground.

U.N. officials have generally been cautious in public statements about the Houthis, based in part on worries that the rebels might respond by blocking U.N. agencies from access to starving people. But in interviews with the AP, two top U.N. relief officials used strong language in reference to both the Houthis and their battlefield adversaries.

Geert Cappelaere, Middle East director for UNICEF, the U.N.’s emergency fund for children, said authorities on “all sides” of the conflict are impeding aid groups — and increasing the risk that the country will descend into widespread famine.

“This has nothing to do with nature,” Cappelaere told the AP. “There is no drought here in Yemen. All of this is man-made. All of this has to do with poor political leadership which doesn’t put the people’s interest at the core of their actions.”

David Beasley, executive director of the U.N.’s food program, said “certain elements of the Houthis” are denying the agency access to some parts of rebel territory — and appear to be diverting food aid.

“It’s a disgrace, criminal, it’s wrong, and it needs to end,” Beasley said in an interview Sunday with the AP. “Innocent people are suffering.”

Once again, it's not the blockade, it's Iran's terrorists starving Yemen.

The Houthis, a Zaidi-Shiite religious movement turned rebel militia, control an expanse of northern and western Yemen that is home to more than 70 percent of the country’s population. In these areas, officials and relief workers say, Houthi rebels have moved aggressively to control the flow of food aid, putting pressure on international relief workers with threats of arrest or exile and setting up checkpoints that demand payments of “customs taxes” as trucks carrying aid try to move across rebel territory.

“Since the Houthis came to power, looting has been on a large scale,” said Abdullah al-Hamidi, who served as acting education minister in the Houthi-run government in the north before defecting to the coalition side earlier this year. “This is why the poor get nothing. What really arrives to people is very little.”

Each month in Sanaa, he said, at least 15,000 food baskets that the education ministry was supposed to provide to hungry families were instead diverted to the black market or used to feed Houthi militiamen serving on the front lines.

Half of the food baskets that the U.N. food program provides to Houthi-controlled areas are stored and distributed by the ministry, which is chaired by the brother of the rebels’ top leader..

So the food aid is not going to the hungry, it's going to terrorists instead.

A senior U.N. official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss the issue, told the AP that enough aid is coming into the country to meet the demands of the hunger crisis, but much of it is stolen.

“If there is no corruption,” he said, “there is no famine.”

While Yemenis starve, the Houthis sell the food.

In displacement camps in the Houthi-controlled northern district of Aslam, barefoot children and mothers whose bodies have been reduced to skin and bone live in tents and huts made of sticks and sackcloth. The camps are not far from villages where the AP reported in September that families were trying to stave off famine by eating boiled tree leaves.

Video shot in 2017 and obtained by the AP shows busy markets in the cities of Taiz and Aden not bothering to repackage pilfered food aid — selling cooking oil and flour displaying the U.N. food program’s WFP logo. AP journalists reporting in Yemen this spring and summer spotted other examples of food with the logos of the WFP and other global relief groups being sold in markets in both Houthi and coalition areas.

“We have found entire stores packed with U.N. aid,” said Fadl Moqbl, head of an independent advocacy group, the Yemeni Association for Consumers’ Protection.

One-year-old Nasser Hafez, who lived with his family in a camp called al-Motayhara, died Dec.12 from malnutrition and other complications at a hospital run by Doctors Without Borders. He was in a coma for five days before his tiny body gave up.

His father and 16 members of his family have moved at least six times since the start of the war. Before, the father said, he had been a tailor, earning enough to feed his family meat, chicken and vegetables. He said he hasn’t received a single food basket from the U.N.’s World Food Program.

“They register us every month, maybe up to five times, but we never get food,” he said.

He said the family has gotten cash transfers every few months equal to $50 from the relief group Oxfam. It costs almost half that amount, he said, to buy 50 kilograms of World Food Program wheat from a market, which lasts his family only a week or two.

The Houthi rebels maintain tight control on how much food goes to which districts and who gets it. They manipulate the official lists of beneficiaries by giving preferential treatment to Houthi supporters and families of slain and wounded soldiers, according to relief workers and officials.

Will this stop the media from continuing to repost Iranian propaganda about the "blockade" causing a famine in Yemen? Don't count on it.

But those Senate Republicans who voted for a Qatari resolution on Yemen, pushing the false myth of a food blockade, should be called out on it. As should the Washington Post which continually recycles myths of a blockade famine while refusing to mention Iran's role.


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