Yemen's Red Sea port is a lifeline for food deliveries but supply shortages are worsening
UN says ships increasingly reluctant to dock in Hodeidah
The delivery of food and goods to war-torn Yemen's main port of Hodeidah has worsened significantly in the past fortnight, the UN said on Tuesday, with many shipping companies reluctant to dock there.
Since Houthi rebels took over the capital Sanaa more than three years ago, Yemen’s government has operated from the second city of Aden, though in practice most senior officials live in Riyadh or Cairo, with just the prime minister living permanently in the temporary capital.
Fighting between the rebels and pro-government forces, backed by a Saudi-led Arab coalition, has recently escalated. The UN is leading international efforts for peace talks.
Political instability – the beleagured government of president Abdrabu Mansur Hadi announced another cabinet shake-up on Monday – is adding to dire food shortages affecting eight million Yemeni civilians.
UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric said the supply situation in Hodeidah was getting worse.
“They see the insecurity in the port,” he said of shipping operators' response to recent fighting.
“It doesn't lend itself to increased activity. Over the last two weeks the activity has been cut by half. If this continues it will have a drastic and immediate impact not only the World Food Programme's ability to distribute food but also on prices in local markets.
“The economic slice of this is the shooting up of prices and the lack of cash available in the economy. This, as if we needed another reminder, is why we need a halt in the fighting.”
The UN's envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, on Monday visited Riyadh for talks, after last week being in the rebel-held city of Sanaa, where he discussed how the UN could oversee Hodeidah's port and help reduce instability.
A UN-brokered attempt at peace talks in September collapsed after the rebels refused to travel to Geneva, the agreed host city.
“We need parties to rally around Mr Griffiths and his efforts,” Mr Dujarric said, adding that no date was yet set for a proposed new round of peace talks in Sweden next month.