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.
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.

GENEVA - 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.

A nurse looks as he weighs a malnourished girl at
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.”

FILE- a severely malnourished boy rests on a hospital bed at the Aslam Health Center, Hajjah, Yemen.
About 20 Million Yemeni Citizens Are 'Food Insecure,' Report Says

Up to 20 million Yemeni's two-thirds of the country's population are food insecure, primarily because of the war that has ravaged the impoverished country.

A joint statement issued Saturday by the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization, UNICEF and the World Food Program said the conflict has contributed to the "world's worst humanitarian crisis."

The agencies cited an analysis by the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification, a food security survey that helps determine whether to declare famine in countries.

"Already 15.9 million people wake up hungry" in Yemen, the agencies said of

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.

FILE - In this Sept. 21, 2018 photo, men deliver U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) aid in Aslam, Hajjah, Yemen.
Yemen Rebels Accuse UN of Taking Sides After Aid Ultimatum

Yemen's Houthi rebels on Tuesday said they were "surprised" by accusations from the United Nations food agency that they are stealing humanitarian aid and accused it of taking sides in the nearly four-year-old war.
 
The World Food Program on Monday threatened to suspend some aid shipments to Yemen if the rebels did not investigate and stop theft and fraud in food distribution, warning that the suspension would affect some 3 million people.
 
The Associated Press reported Monday that armed factions on both sides of the conflict are stealing much-needed food aid, diverting it to their fighters or

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.