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UN urges Yemen parties to keep Hodeidah port safe

By Reuters - Apr 05,2017 - Last updated at Apr 05,2017

DUBAI — 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 per cent of Yemen's food imports, because they say the Iran-aligned Houthis use it to smuggle weapons and ammunition.

Local officials say the government and its allies have positioned two recently-trained brigades for a possible attack. One is 230km north of Hodeidah and the other 130km 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 malnourished.

"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 air strikes, forcing dozens of ships to line up offshore because they cannot be unloaded. 

 

"The port is located in a densely populated urban centre 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.

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