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UN urges access to grain stocks in Yemen’s Hudaydah

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates are seen at a facility of Yemen’s Red Sea Mills company in the Yemeni port city of Hudaydah, on January 22, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations (UN) has warned that there is an urgent need for making grain warehouses accessible in the Red Sea port city of Hudaydah and that the sustenance stored there is “at risk of rotting.”

In a joint statement on Monday, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths and UN aid chief Mark Lowcock highlighted the urgency of obtaining access to the UN stores at the Red Sea Mills, which are believed to contain enough grain to feed several million people for a month.

Saudi Arabia, which has been leading a coalition of its allies in a war on Yemen, has blockaded all routes to the country, putting it on the verge of widespread famine.

“The World Food Program (WFP) grain stored in the mills - enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month - has been inaccessible for over five months and is at risk of rotting,” the statement by the UN officials read.

​Martin Griffiths (C), the UN special envoy for Yemen, arrives at the Sana’a International Airport, in the Yemeni capital, on February 11, 2019. (Photo by AFP)

The UN is pushing for the implementation of a ceasefire in Hudaydah, the main entry point for most of Yemen’s imports, agreed in December last year in Sweden. The breakthrough deal also calls for the withdrawal of both Saudi-led forces and the Yemeni defense units from the city, and the deployment of UN observers there.

The warring sides disagree over who should control Hudaydah once combat forces withdraw. The Yemeni Houthi Ansarullah movement, which has been running Yemen, says the other side has repeatedly violated the truce agreement.

A UN-appointed committee tasked with monitoring the agreed ceasefire in Hudaydah started a new meeting in early February.

In their Monday statement, Griffiths and Lowcock said they appreciated earlier efforts by the Houthis “to re-open the road leading to the mills which have been carried out under difficult and dangerous circumstances.”

But they stopped short of saying specifically who they wanted to cooperate with the UN to access the mills now. They only said they “emphasize that ensuring access to the mills is a shared responsibility among the parties to the conflict in Yemen.”

Accessing over 50,000 tones of UN wheat and milling equipment is a key aim of the ongoing peace talks for Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and some of its vassal states invaded Yemen four years ago to restore a Riyadh-aligned regime that had resigned and fled the country. The Houthis have since been running state affairs and have been defending the country against the Saudi-led invasion and partial occupation.

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