DUBAI, April 5 The United Nations called on
Yemen's warring parties on Wednesday to safeguard the strategic
Red Sea port of Hodeidah as a lifeline for millions of Yemenis
facing potential famine.
The Yemeni government and its Arab allies are preparing an
assault on Hodeidah port, which has been the entry of nearly 80
percent of Yemen's food imports, because they say the
Iran-aligned Houthis use it to smuggle weapons and
Local officials say the government and its allies have
positioned two recently-trained brigades for a possible attack.
One is 230 km (140 miles) north of Hodeidah and the other 130 km
(80 miles) to the south, so they would have to cross large areas
of Houthi-held territory if they set off to seize the port.
"The continued military escalation in Yemen, specifically
the militarisation of large regions on its Western Coast and the
associated increase of humanitarian access obstacles and
population movement restrictions, are of grave concern to the
humanitarian community," the Office of the Humanitarian
Coordinator in Yemen said in a statement issued on Tuesday.
"This is only resulting in more displacement, more
institutional collapse, and more suffering."
More than two years of civil war have cut food deliveries by
more than half and pushed the Arabian Peninsula's poorest
country to the edge of famine. The United Nations says nearly
3.3 million people, including 2.1 million children, are acutely
"The Yemen Humanitarian Country Team calls on all warring
parties and on those with influence over the parties to ensure
the continued functioning of Hodeidah Port," the statement said.
Yemen has historically imported 80 to 90 per cent of its
food, mostly through Hodeidah. Five cranes at the port there
have been destroyed by airstrikes, forcing dozens of ships to
line up offshore because they cannot be unloaded.
"The port is located in a densely populated urban center
where thousands of people live and any military campaign in its
vicinity, from the ground or air, would have devastating
civilian consequences," the agency warned.
The conflict pits the armed Houthi group against the
government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, backed by a
Saudi-led Arab alliance. More than 10,000 people have been
killed by coalition air strikes and fighting on the ground.
The coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Houthis and
troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have
fired missiles into neighboring Saudi Arabia.
(Reporting by Tom Miles; Writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi; Editing
by Sami Aboudi and Tom Heneghan)