Thu, Feb 28, 2019 - Page 6 News List

UN access to Hodeidah mills to boost Yemen aid

BREAKTHROUGH:The World Food Programme said the Red Sea Mills have more than 51,000 tonnes of wheat, enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month

Reuters, GENEVA, Switzerland

Fatima Hadi, a 12-year-old displaced Yemeni girl suffering from malnutrition, sits on a bed at a hospital in Hajjah Province on Monday.

Photo: AFP

The UN on Tuesday regained access to a grains facility near Yemen’s Hodeidah port, potentially allowing an increase in food aid to millions at risk of starvation after years of devastating war, humanitarian officials said.

The breakthrough was announced by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a humanitarian pledging conference in Geneva, Switzerland, aimed at averting famine in Yemen.

However, talks aimed at securing a pullout from Hodeidah by Iran-aligned Houthi forces holding the city and Saudi Arabian-led coalition forces appeared stalled again, despite UN efforts to clear the way to wider negotiations on ending the conflict.

Western diplomats said that an inspection of the grain stores in the port had been carried out, but the warring sides still needed to agree on which road could be used to transport supplies from the site to needy recipients.

Guterres said that US$2.6 billion has been pledged toward a UN appeal of US$4.2 billion this year for Yemen, where 24 million people, or 80 percent of the population of the nation, is in need of aid.

The World Food Programme (WFP) grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have more than 51,000 tonnes of wheat, but have been cut off in the conflict zone for six months, putting the grain at risk of rotting.

A WFP team that went to the Red Sea Mills premises took stock of how much grain remains and what has been damaged, WFP Yemen country director Stephen Anderson told reporters.

“There is sufficient grain there for 3.7 million people for a month. Given that Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian emergency right now, people desperately need this assistance,” Anderson said at the Geneva talks.

The WFP is reaching about 10 million Yemenis per month with food aid and hopes to scale up to 12 million this year, but it is a complicated operation in a war zone, Anderson said.

“We are concentrated in particular on the 104 districts where there is a convergence of hunger, malnutrition, and health and water problems,” he said, adding that 45 districts have “pockets of people facing catastrophic hunger.”

About 2 million Yemeni children are malnourished, 360,000 of whom were suffering from “severe acute malnutrition,” the life-threatening form, UN International Children’s Emergency Fund Middle East director Geert Cappelaere said.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — which have led a bombing campaign against Houthis fighting the forces of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi — each pledged US$500 million in fresh funds at the Geneva conference.

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