The ongoing civil war in Yemen, now in its ninth year, involves the Yemeni government supported by a Saudi-led coalition, the Iran-backed Houthi rebels, and the Southern Transitional Council backed by the United Arab Emirates. On December 5, the World Food Program (WFP) announced it would halt food distribution in areas controlled by the Houthi rebels, who govern about 25% of Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. This suspension is expected to affect millions of people.

The WFP cited funding constraints as the primary reason for the suspension. The agency relies on voluntary donations from governments, private companies, and individuals. However, this year's food assistance needs have risen, while donations have not met the budget.

David Beasley, the former Executive Director of the WFP (2017 to April 2023), expressed concern at the end of his term that the agency might not raise the $23 billion needed for this year's assistance program. He praised the United States and Germany for increasing their donations last year and urged Gulf countries and billionaires to be more generous.

As Beasley feared, this year's fundraising fell by half compared to last year. As of December 4, 2023, the WFP had raised about $7.1 billion, compared to $14.1 billion in 2022.

Karl Skau, Deputy Executive Director and Chief Operating Officer of the WFP, announced in late July that at least 38 of the 86 countries where the agency operates had cut or planned to cut assistance, including Afghanistan, Syria, Yemen, and West Africa.

Yemen is one of the WFP's largest aid recipients. In August, due to a lack of funds, the agency announced cuts to its food assistance program in Yemen, affecting major projects like general food assistance, nutrition programs, school feeding programs, and disaster response activities.

The agency estimated that 3 million people in northern Yemen and 1.4 million in the south would be affected. The nutrition prevention program in Yemen was completely suspended, severely impacting about 240,000 malnourished citizens.

A failure to reach an agreement with the Houthi rebels was also a significant reason for the suspension of the assistance program. The WFP wanted to allocate resources to the neediest families, reducing the number of people assisted in the region from 9.5 million to 6.5 million. However, after a year of negotiations, the parties could not agree on reducing the scale of the assistance program.

The Yemeni civil war, which erupted in 2014, has caused hundreds of thousands of deaths and is one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The country's population exceeds 30 million, and the armed conflict has displaced 4.5 million people, with over two-thirds living in poverty.

Long-term conflict has led to severe food shortages in Houthi-controlled areas, with stocks nearly depleted. Even if an agreement is reached immediately, restoring aid could take up to four months. Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General, revealed that the WFP had attempted to establish a safe and responsible system to provide aid to Houthi-controlled areas but was unsuccessful.

In September, Rashad Mohammed Al-Alimi, Chairman of the Presidential Leadership Council of Yemen, stated that peace could only be achieved by stopping the flow of weapons and resources to the Houthis. He suggested that the UN should change its relief approach by making financial pledges to the Central Bank of Yemen's government to ensure funds do not fall into Houthi hands.

The WFP said it would continue aid in Houthi-controlled areas if it receives sufficient funds and support from Yemeni authorities in the future, mitigating the impact of the current suspension.

Since the escalation of the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Houthi rebels, strategically located, have launched drones and missiles at Israel and intensified military operations in the Red Sea, posing a severe threat to international merchant ships in nearby waters.