UN regains access to Red Sea mills grains in Yemen

GENEVA: The UN said Tuesday it had reached food aid warehouses on the frontlines in Yemen, holding enough supplies to feed millions of people, for the first time since September.

“I have just received a piece of good news. Finally, it was possible for us to reach the Red Sea Mills,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres told a pledging conference for Yemen in Geneva.

A spokesman for the UN’s World Food Programme said that it was an evaluation mission that had reached the warehouse near the western port city of Hodeida.

“Today, for the first time since September, a World Food Programme team was able to reach the site of the Red Sea Mills, which holds 51,000 metric tons of grain, which is enough to feed more than 3.7 million people for a month,” Herve Verhoosel said.

“We do not yet have the technical results from today’s evaluation, but we hope to be able to begin using this site again as soon as possible,” he added.

The mission follows an agreement struck in Sweden on February 17, in which the sides in Yemen’s conflicts agreed to redeploy their fighters outside the ports and away from areas that are key to the humanitarian relief effort in the country.

The ports are in the Houthi-held west of the country, and the agreement especially set out free access to the grain warehouses at Red Sea Mills, under control of the Saudi-backed government forces.

The conflict has killed around 10,000 people — most of them civilians — and has left more than 60,000 wounded, according to the World Health Organization.

The conflict has also created what the UN describes as the world’s worse humanitarian crisis, with some 10 million people are on the verge of famine.

Guterres was Tuesday leading a pledging conference in Geneva aimed at raising $4.2 billion to help more than 21 million people in dire need of humanitarian aid.

In total, the UN estimates that more than 24 million people, or 80 percent of the population, needs assistance, including two million people who are affected by the humanitarian crisis in the past year alone.

“Two million girls, boys, women and men in need of lifesaving aid would be a significant emergency on its own,” Guterres said, adding though that “In Yemen, it is a small fraction of an overwhelming humanitarian calamity.”

According to the UN appeal published Tuesday, 14.3 million of Yemen’s inhabitants are in acute need of assistance, and Guterres stressed the particularly heavy burden on children.

“Children did not start the war in Yemen, but they are paying the highest price,” he said.

Around 360,000 children in the country are suffering from severe acute malnutrition, and Guterres pointed to a “credible” report issued by Save the Children last November, indicating that more than 80,000 infants under the age of five may have died of starvation since 2015.

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