The United Nations aid chief on Thursday, February 7 urged Yemen’s Houthi rebels to grant access in the coming days to a food storage site in Hodeidah containing enough grain to feed millions of starving civilians.
The Houthis are refusing to allow U.N. aid agencies to cross front lines and reach the Red Sea Mills, which are located in a government-controlled area, because of security concerns, U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said.
Yemen’s government and Houthi rebels agreed during talks in Sweden in December to a ceasefire in Hodeidah, a redeployment of forces and access to humanitarian aid, under a deal seen as a major step towards ending the devastating war.
“Access to the mills grows ever more urgent as time passes and the risk of spoilage to the remaining grain increases,” said Lowcock in a statement.
“I implore all parties, in particular Ansar Allah affiliated groups, to finalize an agreement and facilitate access to the mills in the coming days.”
Ansar Allah is the official name of the Houthi movement that controls Sana’a, much of Hodeidah and other parts of Yemen in a war against the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
The Red Sea Mills silos are believed to contain enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month but the granary has remained off-limits to aid organizations for more than four months.
The latest negotiations on securing access to the warehouses have dragged on and Lowcock deplored that a solution remained “elusive.”
Hodeidah port is the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s imported goods and humanitarian aid, providing a lifeline to millions in the Arab world’s poorest country.
Hodeidah was for months the main front line in the Yemen war after government forces supported by Saudi Arabia and its allies launched an offensive to capture it in June.
The United Nations has described Yemen as the world’s worst humanitarian emergency, with 10 million people on the brink of famine.
Last month, two silos at the Red Sea mills were hit by mortar shells, sparking a fire that destroyed some of the grain – probably enough to feed hundreds of thousands of people for a month, the United Nations said.
With reporting from AFP