Rotting food stockpiles are Yemen’s latest man-made tragedy

Rotting food stockpiles are Yemen’s latest man-made tragedy

By Luke Vargas   
Published
Cranes at the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. Courtesy: WFP/Marco Frattini
Cranes at the Yemeni port of Hodeidah. Courtesy: WFP/Marco Frattini

A key food depot in the port city of Hodeidah has become a pawn in Yemen's devastating civil war.

UNITED NATIONS – Imagine starving in a war zone, only to learn that enough food aid to save you and millions of others sits deserted nearby. That’s exactly what’s transpiring now in Yemen, where a key food depot has become a pawn in the country’s devastating proxy war.

“The Red Sea Mills that are located in the port city of Hodeidah hold enough food for 3.7 million people over a month in Yemen.”

Jared Wright is a policy adviser at international NGO Mercy Corps.

“This is a massive amount of aid, and it’s really a launching-off point for organizations to then deliver that aid around the country. This grain has been inaccessible for over five months now.”

The war in Yemen pits the country’s government – backed by a Saudi-led coalition, which includes the U.S. – against Houthi rebels aided by Iran.

In a country that is reliant on imports for 90 percent of its food, it’s perhaps no surprise that the port city of Hodeidah on Yemen’s western coast became a central battleground.

Last June, Yemen’s government launched a campaign to retake Hodeidah, but the ensuing fighting proved so costly that international mediators pushed the warring parties to agree on a ceasefire in December.

“The agreement itself, while it was agreed in principle, it has not been implemented on the ground, so what we’re seeing is that the front lines effectively cut across these grain silos, and because there’s been no agreement between the government of Yemen and the Houthi authorities to pull back from their positions, the grain silos have thus become inaccessible to the U.N. and to humanitarian organizations.”

The U.N. warned Monday that for every day the grain in the Red Sea Mills goes undistributed, the higher the risk it rots before ever reaching the millions of Yemenis who desperately need it.

To Wright, it’s just the latest tragic consequence in a long and painful war.

“This is entirely a man-made conflict, and that conflict is really driving the hunger crisis that we’re seeing right now.”

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