February 11, 2019 / 6:16 AM / 3 months ago

U.N. says grain stores in Yemen's Hodeidah 'at risk of rotting'

DUBAI (Reuters) - The U.N. special envoy to Yemen on Monday said the urgency of accessing grain stores trapped in a frontline position in the port city of Hodeidah was increasing as the food was “at risk of rotting”.

United Nations envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths, gestures as he arrives to a meeting with Houthi-appointed local officials in Hodeidah, Yemen January 29, 2019. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

The World Food Programme grain stores at the Red Sea Mills are enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month and have been inaccessible for more than five months, Martin Griffiths said.

Yemen’s almost four-year war has killed tens of thousands of people, collapsed the economy and brought millions of people to the brink of famine.

The U.N. is pushing for the implementation of a ceasefire and troop withdrawal from Hodeidah, the main entry point for most of Yemen’s imports, agreed in December in Sweden.

Accessing the 51,000 tonnes of U.N. wheat and milling equipment at the frontline flashpoint is a key aim of ongoing peace talks.

Yemen’s conflict pits the Iran-aligned Houthi movement against a Saudi-backed coalition trying to restore the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after it was ousted from power in Sanaa by the Houthis in 2014.

Negotiations between warring parties last week produced what the U.N. called a “preliminary compromise” on how to withdraw troops, although the deal has not yet been finally agreed.

Griffiths said he was encouraged by the recent engagement of all sides in talks to find a way of accessing the mills.

“We emphasize that ensuring access to the mills is a shared responsibility among the parties to the conflict in Yemen. With safe, unfettered and sustained access, the United Nations can make this urgently needed food available to people in need,” the statement said.

The joint statement between Griffiths and U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock said the U.N. was scaling up its operations to provide food assistance to nearly 12 million people across Yemen struggling to meet their daily food needs.

Writing by Lisa Barrington; editing by Christian Schmollinger

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