Houthi Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf received on Tuesday credentials of the World Food Program new resident representative to Yemen, a move seen as a new slam to the internationally-recognized government.
The documents were handed by the WFP acting representative Ali Riza, at his meeting with Sharaf in Sana'a, where they discussed arrangements for aid quick delivery to beneficiaries, said the Houthi-run Saba.
While the FM stressed on smooth, flexible measures so as to spare people any burdens, the WFP official said his agency is determined to have the aid reached the largest number of beneficiaries across Yemen.
Yemen has been racked by a 4-year bloody conflictbetween the internationally-recognized Yemeni government's forces, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who ousted the government in 2014.
The WFP submission of credentials to Houthis has angered the official government, with its information minister dismissing the move as new scandal by the organization and serious breach of diplomatic protocols and the UNSC resolution on the Yemeni crisis.
"This grave bypass comes after the program has admitted Houthi theft and diversion of relief aid to non-beneficiaries, causing famine in Yemen," Moammar al-Eryani added on Twitter, accusing the WFP of yielding to "Houthi blackmail and pressures."
The minister called on the program's country mission to correct this "irresponsible act, which is a coup against Yemenis' will, UNSC resolutions, international law and diplomatic rules."
On March 17, the Yemeni government stressed on the need for all the UN offices to be moved from the national capital of Sana'a to the port city of Aden, seat of the legitimate government.
At a meeting in Aden, the Yemeni foreign undersecretary Mohammed al-Hadhrami urged head of the political affairs at the UN envoy office to "not yield to pressures by Houthi coup militias and keep silent at their persistently harassing UN offices in areas under their control," according to the Aden-based Saba.
All the UN missions are based in Sana'a and run their activities in Houthi-held areas.
Last Wednesday, the Program accused Houthi group of hindering the start of biometric system to identify people most need aid in a country on the brink of famine.
"The continued blocking by some within the Houthi leadership of the biometric registration ... is undermining an essential process that would allow us to independently verify that food is reaching ... people on the brink of famine," WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said.
Sources familiar with the discussions said Houthi leaders asked the agency to stop the registration process in early April after realizing the new system bypasses Sana'a supervision, according to Reuters.
Since discovering in December 2018 that donated food in Houthi areas was being systematically diverted through a local partner connected to Houthi authorities, the WFP has pressed the Houthis harder to implement a biometric system used globally to combat corruption in aid distribution.
The biometric system – using iris scanning, fingerprints or facial recognition – is already used in areas controlled by Yemen's internationally recognized government, which is backed a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states.
The Houthis say the process should be run by the Yemeni Social Welfare Fund, a Sana'a-based agency that coordinates with international aid groups.
Other agencies say the problems, including harassment of staff, interference with distribution list, difficulties getting visas and restrictions on movement, have deepened in Houthi areas in recent months.
Last May, the WFP warned that it may have to suspend the distribution of food aid in Houthi rebel-controlled areas in north of Yemen, over fears of "embezzlements" and diversion of aids from their actual recipients.
On 31st of last December, the program directly accused Houthi rebels of fraud and thieving food aid intended for millions of Yemeni people in need and selling them at markets in rebel-held provinces and cities in north of the country.
Yemen conflict has triggered what the UN calls the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with most of the population in need for a type of humanitarian aid and immediate protection, including 14 million people risking famine and some 1.8 million children suffering malnutrition.