The World Food Programme (WFP) was forced to suspend its milling operation when artillery fire damaged a mill on the frontline near the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. The grain being milled is intended as food aid to the starving population in war ravaged Yemen, WFP said on Monday, December 30.
“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 Yemeni government’s information minister, Moammar al-Eryani, said the rival Houthi movement 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 Red Sea Mills lie on a frontline between forces loyal to the President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s internationally-recognised government and the Iran-aligned Houthi forces.
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 tonnes has been milled into flour and dispatched, the spokesperson said.
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 a Saudi-led 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 United Nations 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, U.N.-mediated talks between warring parties in Hodeidah have so far failed to achieve a full troop withdrawal and ceasefire. (Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation)