Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 12 November 2019

Houthi shelling halts distribution of salvaged grain from Hodeidah’s Red Sea mills

The rebel group resumed shelling over the area on Thursday, a coalition general said

The World Food Programme has struggled to deliver food air from the mills due to ongoing fighting. EPA
The World Food Programme has struggled to deliver food air from the mills due to ongoing fighting. EPA

Yemen’s Houthi rebels renewed shelling of the Red Sea mills in Hodeidah last Thursday, preventing distribution of grain, the joint forces said.

Mortar shelling which targeted a warehouse near the grain storage facility caused a huge fire in the buildings surrounding the silos which hold tons of wheat, Colonel Wathah Al Dubaish, a spokesperson for pro-government forces in Hodeidah, told The National.

“This is the third time the Houthi rebels have targeted the Red Sea mills facility as it gears up to resume production. They have repeatedly targeted the silos which contain thousands of tons of wheat waiting to be distributed to starving people” Col Al Dubaish said.

The Red Sea mills on the outskirts of the port city of Hodeidah are an important facility for the milling and storage of flour. They remained in operation throughout the war, providing millions of starving people in the Houthi-held provinces of Yemen with food, until September 2018 when fighting made the area inaccessible.

The World Food Programme uses the mills to store tonnes of wheat, which are at risk of rotting if it cannot be moved.

“Engineers in the mills facility told me that the salvaged wheat must be distributed as soon as possible otherwise the grain stock is at risk of rotting because it has been stored in the facility warehouses for a long time and was exposed to damage due to the repeated Houthi shelling,” Col Al Dubaish said.

The World Food Programme team which visited the mills in February this year estimated that 70 per cent of the 51,0000 tons of stored grain could be salvaged. However, the Houthis continued shelling the silos, causing yet more damage to the stored grain as the summer heat threatened to spoil even more.

“The facility was completely repaired by the Arab Coalition in coordination with the UN and a large amount of wheat was ready to be distributed to thousands of starving people in the country, but unfortunately the UN failed in its mission to convince the Houthi rebels to allow trucks to transfer the wheat from the mills to the people,” said Col Al Dubaish.

Col Al Dubaish said that the Houthi rebels are insisting the UN takes over the distribution of wheat from the World Food Programme.

“They threaten to target the trucks if the UN doesn’t hand the wheat over to them. As a consequence, the UN couldn’t distribute it so far, despite tons of wheat having been ready for delivery for more than a month,” Col Al Dubaish added.

He called the UN urgently to put pressure on the Houthi rebels to open the road for trucks to transfer the amount of wheat stored in the warehouses of the mills to a safer place.

The UAE announced $500 million in aid for Yemen for this year, plus an extra $100 million for the month of Ramadan.

Updated: August 24, 2019 12:34 PM

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