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WFP Calls for Biometric System to Prevent Food Aid Theft in Yemen


FILE - Yemenis displaced from the port city of Hodeida receive humanitarian aid donated by the World Food Programme (WFP) in the northern province of Hajjah, Sept. 25, 2018.

The World Food Program is calling for a biometric-based registration system in Yemen to prevent the theft of food rations meant for hungry people.

A week ago, the World Food Program uncovered evidence that people entitled to food aid were not receiving their rations in the Yemeni capital Sana’a and in other parts of the country controlled by the Houthi rebels.

FILE - A nurse looks as he weighs a malnourished girl at a malnutrition treatment center in Sana'a, Yemen, Oct. 7, 2018.
FILE - A nurse looks as he weighs a malnourished girl at a malnutrition treatment center in Sana'a, Yemen, Oct. 7, 2018.

The Houthi leadership has since stated it would undertake an investigation. While welcoming this statement, WFP says concrete steps must be taken to make sure humanitarian assistance is not misused. It is calling for a biometric registration system of beneficiaries.

WFP spokesman, Herve Verhoosel, tells VOA his agency has implemented such a system in Aden with the permission of the Yemeni government. He says the program has successfully weeded out people who were not entitled to food assistance.

“We have proposed since a few months to do the same to the Sana’a de facto authorities," he said. "For the moment, they have not accepted yet. But it is the best way to make sure that the support reaches the people who need to receive that support.”

The United Nations warns about 14 million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine. The World Food Program provides food assistance to three million people a month in Yemen. The agency’s monitoring system found that a local partner organization that distributes much of this aid was involved in misappropriating some of the food.

WFP does not accuse the local organization itself of being corrupt. But it says individuals within the organization found to be involved in this illicit practice must be sacked.

The agency notes the misuse of food aid also happens in areas controlled by the Government of Yemen, but at a lower volume than in Houthi-held areas. It says WFP is not the only victim of larcenous practices. It says all aid agencies working in Yemen and in war zones everywhere are vulnerable to abuse and must remain vigilant.

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