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Hodeida fighting could threaten vital food shipment: WFP

A Yemeni worker unloads a WFP shipment in Aden [Getty]

Date of publication: 15 September, 2018

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The UN agency said that a recent bout of fighting could jeopardise a 46,000 ton shipment of wheat that would supply 3.5 million Yemenis with food.
Recent fighting between the Saudi- and Emirati-backed Yemen government forces and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels around the port city of Hodeida could jeopardise badly needed wheat shipments, the World Food Programme has warned.

Around 46,000 tons of wheat are expected to arrive at Hodeida's port within the next 10 days.

The latest offensive began last week following a break down in peace talks in Geneva. It was concentrated in the eastern and southern entrances of Hodeida, which is considered the lifeline of Yemen.

WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel said humanitarian workers, infrastructure and food supplies have been targeted in recent days as the offensive continues near the Red Sea Mill Silos, a critical facility for the UN agency. 

Fighting there could impact WFP's ability to supply up to 3.5 million people in dire need in northern and central Yemen for one month, he said. 

He said a mortar shell launched by an unidentified armed group also hit a WFP warehouse in Hodeida holding enough food to assist 19,200 people, wounding a guard at the warehouse.

The fighting for Hodeida has also effectively shut down the main artery linking the port city - through which 70 percent of Yemen's imports flow - to the rest of the country, the Save the Children charity said on Thursday.

Tamer Kirolos of Save the Children said "it's quite literally a matter of life and death" for the main road linking Hodeida to the capital Sanaa to remain open.

The Saudi- and Emirati-backed government forces first tried to retake Hodeida in June, but their offensive was stalemated by the rebels' resistance.

One main objective of the ongoing offensive is to cut off the road between Hodeida and Sanaa, thus depriving the capital city, which is controlled by the Houthis, from arms supplies arriving by sea. Government forces are also trying to cut off the road to Taiz, a fiercely contested and strategic city south of Hodeida.

The Houthi rebels first seized control of the capital and a string of Red Sea ports in 2014, driving the government out of Sanaa and President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. 

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the conflict to bolster Hadi. They now control Yemen's airspace.

Since the war began more than three years ago, nearly 10,000 people have since been killed and the country now stands at the brink of famine.

The UN has called the war in Yemen the "world's worst humanitarian crisis," and rights groups including the Arms Under Control collective have campaigned against weapons sales to the Saudi-led coalition. 

Agencies contributed to this report. 

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