SANAA, Yemen - A recent bout of fighting between Yemeni government forces backed by a Saudi-led coalition and Shiite rebels around the Red Sea port city of Hodeida could jeopardize shipments of 46,000 tons of wheat expected to arrive within the next ten days, the World Food Program said on Friday.
The latest offensive began last week following the failure of what was hoped to be renewed peace talks to resume in Geneva. It was concentrated in the eastern and southern entrances to the city, 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 clashes are still ongoing near the Red Sea Mill Silos, a critical facility for WFP operations.
The fighting 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 city holding enough food to assist 19,200 people, wounding a guard at the warehouse.
U.N. Human Coordinator for Yemen Lise Grande said on Thursday that the situation in Hodeida has deteriorated dramatically in the past few days.
“People are struggling to survive,” said Grande. “More than 25 percent of children are malnourished; 900,000 people in the governorate are desperate for food and 90,000 pregnant women are at enormous risk.”
The fighting for Hodeida has also effectively shut down the main artery linking the port city to the rest of the country, the Save the Children charity said 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.
“This year alone we expect some 400,000 children under five to suffer from severe acute malnutrition. ... Unless supply routes remain open this figure could increase dramatically, putting the lives of thousands of children at risk from entirely preventable causes,” he said.