DUBAI: Houthi artillery fire has damaged a mill on the frontline near the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah, forcing the World Food Programme to suspended the milling of grain intended for food aid to a starving population, the agency said on Monday.
Yemen’s government’s information minister, Moammar Al-Eryani, also said the Houthi militia had carried out the shelling.
There was no comment from Houthi media.
The WFP grain stores at the Red Sea Mills have become a focal point of the conflict in Hodeidah, where the United Nations is trying to enforce a ceasefire and troop withdrawal agreed a year ago at Stockholm peace talks.
“The milling of WFP wheat at the Red Sea Mills near Hodeidah has been temporarily halted after the mills were hit by artillery fire on Thursday 26 December,” a WFP spokesperson said.
The Red Sea Mills lie on a frontline between forces loyal to the President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally-recognized government and the Iranian-backed Houthi forces.
In November, WFP reached 12.7 million people in #Yemen with life-saving food assistance. That's 12.7 million people who have enough to eat.
Thank you to our donors for helping us make this happen month after month. #YemenCantWait pic.twitter.com/R1cOHsdZQ1
— WFP Yemen (@WFPYemen) December 29, 2019
The war has severely hit food supplies in Yemen and millions of people are at risk of starvation in what aid agencies describe as one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.
The stores were off limits for around six months and were at risk of rotting until the WFP negotiated access in late February and began cleaning and milling what had been enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
So far just over 2,500 tons has been milled into flour and dispatched, the spokesperson said.
At the end of the day, it's not about how many tons of food we transport or how many food baskets we provide. It's all about the smiles of relief knowing that there will be food on the table. #YemenCantWait #Bestof2019 pic.twitter.com/hXyyEhyTaV
— WFP Yemen (@WFPYemen) December 30, 2019
Yemen has been mired in almost five years of conflict since the Houthi movement ousted Hadi’s government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014, prompting intervention in 2015 by an Arab military coalition in a bid to restore his government.
A statement by a mill official carried by the media office of the Giants Brigade, part of Yemeni government forces, said the shelling put a hole in a grain silo, exposing it to the elements.
The UN has been trying to re-launch political negotiations to end the war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
A year on from the Stockholm deal, UN-mediated talks between warring parties in the Hodeidah have so far failed to achieve a full troop withdrawal and cease-fire.