Yemeni Port Volumes Not Enough to Prevent Famine
International charity Oxfam warned Thursday that over the past month, Yemen's Red Sea ports have only handled about half the amount of food cargo needed to supply the war-torn country's population.
The Saudi coalition backing the government in Yemen's civil war has restricted merchant shipping to and from Hodeidah and other rebel-controlled ports since the early days of the conflict. Late last year, the coalition agreed to lift a full blockade on Hodeidah for a thirty-day period, and at least 13 vessels have arrived and offloaded since. The Saudi forces have also allowed the World Food Program to deliver four new mobile cranes at the port, replacing some of the lifting capacity that Saudi warplanes destroyed in a raid in 2015 (image above).
Despite these improvements, the volume of cargo that moved through Hodeidah during the 30-day lifting of the blockade is not yet enough to ward off famine, Oxfam warns. Product tankers and bulkers have arrived and offloaded much-needed bulk cargoes, but Hodeidah has yet to admit a container ship. Small boxships would bring cooking oil and other key food staples, the NGO said.
8.4 million Yemenis are near to famine, and the nation relies on imports for 90 percent of its food. The supply line problems that limit the delivery of relief aid could get much worse: the thirty-day temporary opening of Hodeidah ends tomorrow, and the Saudi coalition has not announced whether it will be renewed.
“The wanton disregard on all sides of this conflict for the lives of ordinary families struggling to cope after more than a 1,000 days of war is nothing short of an international scandal. This is a war waged with 21st century hi-tech weapons, but the tactic of starvation is from the Dark Ages. The international community must come together and take a stand against barbarism," said Oxfam country director Shane Stevenson. His agency called for the permanent lifting of the blockade; an end to excessive restrictions to shipping to and from Hodeidah; and negotiations aimed at bringing an end to the long-running conflict.
[Top image: mobile crane purchased by WFP with American funding is offloaded at the dock in Hodeidah, January 16 (WFP)]