World Food Programme pauses distribution in north Yemen as funds limited

RIYADH (Reuters) - The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday it had paused general food distribution in north Yemen due to limited funding and disagreement with local authorities over how to focus on the poorest there.

Sanaa and northern Yemeni regions are under the control of the Iran-aligned Houthi group, which has been at war since 2014 with a Saudi-backed government that is based in the southern port city of Aden.

The fighting has abated over the last two years, easing what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. However, millions still rely on direct humanitarian aid.

The WFP said the decision was taken in consultation with donors and comes after a year of negotiations and no agreement had been reached to reduce the number of people served to 6.5 million from 9.5 million.

Food stocks in the areas under the Houthi administration are almost depleted and resuming food assistance could take up to four months due to disruption of the supply chain, the U.N. agency said in a statement.

There was no immediate comment from Houthi officials.

The WFP had already reduced rations in Yemen since 2022 due to critical funding gaps and global inflation that followed Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

The agency said it would continue other programmes, including nutrition and school feeding programmes to limit the impact of the decision.

General food distribution would continue with a focus on the neediest in the areas controlled by the Saudi-backed government, it said.

(Reporting by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing by Bernadette Baum)