December 31, 2018 3:30 pm

‘The poor get nothing’: In Yemen, corruption keeps food and aid from reaching those in need

A Yemeni woman holds a hand of her malnourished child as he receives medical attention at a malnutrition treatment center in Sana'a, Yemen, 16 November 2018.

EPA/YAHYA ARHAB via AP
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Day after day Nabil al-Hakimi, a humanitarian official in Taiz, one of Yemen’s largest cities, went to work feeling he had a “mountain” on his shoulders. Billions of dollars in food and other foreign aid was coming into his war-ravaged homeland, but millions of Yemenis were still living a step away from famine.

Reports of organizational disarray and out-and-out thievery streamed in to him this spring and summer from around Taiz — 5,000 sacks of rice doled out without record of where they’d gone . . . 705 food baskets looted from a welfare agency’s warehouses . . . 110 sacks of grain pillaged from trucks trying to make their way through the craggy northern highlands overlooking the city.

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Food donations, it was clear, were being snatched from the starving.

Documents reviewed by The Associated Press and interviews with al-Hakimi and other officials and aid workers show that thousands of families in Taiz are not getting international food aid intended for them — often because it has been seized by armed units that are allied with the Saudi-led, American-backed military coalition fighting in Yemen.

“The army that should protect the aid is looting the aid,” al-Hakimi told the AP.

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Across Yemen, factions and militias on all sides of the conflict have blocked food aid from going to groups suspected of disloyalty, diverted it to front-line combat units or sold it for profit on the black market, according to public records and confidential documents obtained by the AP and interviews with more than 70 aid workers, government officials and average citizens from six different provinces.

© 2018 The Canadian Press

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