The Houthi rebels, as well as other parties to the conflict in Yemen, are to blame for obstructing the delivery of desperately needed aid in the country, according to a new report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW).
The Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and much of the north, have a “particularly egregious record of obstructing aid agencies from reaching civilians in need”, according to HRW, including by diverting relief items to their own organisation, blocking aid containers at ports they control, and even preventing aid assessments to identify people’s needs.
The human rights organisation also reported that obstruction in government-held areas of Yemen has also increased, and noted the Saudi-led coalition, which backs the Yemeni government, has imposed a naval and air blockade on Yemen since March 2015, restricting the import of food, fuel and medicine.
The difficulties facing the work of international aid organisations in Yemen have emerged into the open during the past few years, with allegations that corruption is widespread, and international aid is not being accounted for.
And it is not just international aid organisations facing obstructions. Muna Luqman, executive director of Food4Humanity, described the Yemeni NGO’s experiences with the Houthis.
“When our aid is delivered to the port in Hodeidah, we find that a portion of it will have been stolen before it leaves the port,” Luqman told Al Jazeera. “There’s also pressure to send aid to areas where [the Houthis] want it to go. We had a project in Hodeidah and they forced us to send it to Sanaa. We eventually found a compromise and split the aid, but the international organisations often simply agree with them.”
For their part, the Houthis responded to HRW’s criticisms by saying the group did not want to obstruct aid, and the allegations were coming from aid agencies that followed “political orders” from the United States.
Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the United Arab Emirates-backed Southern Transitional Council (STC), which was also accused of obstructing aid, did not respond.