GENEVA - The World Food Program said Friday that it would resume food aid next week to 850,000 Yemeni civilians in Sanaa who have not received rations for two months.
The U.N. agency suspended its operation in Yemen on June 20 after Houthi authorities refused to introduce a biometric registration system to ensure that those in need of food would receive it. WFP accused Houthi rebels of diverting food for their own profit, a charge the group denied.
After weeks of negotiations with Houthi authorities, WFP said it had worked out technical details of an agreement, which provides assurances that the right food goes to the right people at the right time.
WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel told VOA his agency had written guarantees from the Houthis that hundreds of thousands of hungry people in Sanaa would receive the lifesaving food they desperately need.
"We have every reason to believe that the Houthis are there for the good of their people and will, of course, help us to implement that agreement,” Verhoosel said. “Obviously, we will review the situation if we see that it is not the case. The people in Sanaa that we are talking about will start receiving food even before we start the registration process."
Digital smart cards
Verhoosel said biometric registration would begin next week for the 9 million WFP beneficiaries in areas of Yemen controlled by the Sanaa-based Houthi authorities. He said the Yemeni civilians would receive digital smart cards that will verify their identity. He said this system would ensure that vulnerable families will receive the food they need by means of rations, vouchers or cash.
Verhoosel said the agreement granted WFP staff and partners unimpeded access to all areas where they work. He said that once the registration was complete, the U.N. agency would be able to introduce cash transfers to local people. This will allow them to buy food from local shops.
The United Nations says the Yemen conflict has produced the world's worst humanitarian crisis. It says 80 percent of Yemen's population, or more than 24 million people, need assistance.
WFP has been scaling up its operations for three months. It says its objective is to provide food aid to 12 million people every month. To reach this goal, it said, it urgently needs $746 million to fund operations through 2019.