A Saudi-led military coalition says that it intends to retake the Yemeni port of Hodeidah, which handles about 80 percent of the food aid that sustains the famine-stricken country. A source within the coalition recently told Reuters that it is examining "alternatives" to Hodeidah for routing aid shipments. Saudi forces contend that Houthi rebels use Hodeidah to receive shipments of arms and ammunition from Iran, making the control of the port a key strategic objective.
However, aid groups warn that a Saudi-led assault on Hodeidah would disrupt civilian port operations for more than a month – an interruption that could severely impact the international effort to stave off mass hunger created by two years of civil war. Aid groups contend that the port's operations are already limited by a Saudi naval blockade and by the destruction of five of the port's gantry cranes, which were taken out by a Saudi airstrike in 2015. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) recently told the BBC that it has given up on attempting to ship supplies through Hodeidah, and is routing shipments through Aden instead – adding a long overland journey to the group's supply chain.
The World Food Programme estimates that war-driven malnutrition affects 17 million Yemeni civilians, including about three million women and children. “We are in a race against time to save lives and prevent a full-scale famine unfolding in the country, but we urgently need resources to do this,” said WFP country director in Yemen Stephen Anderson in a recent appeal. In late April, 48 nations answered the call and pledged a combined $1.1 billion towards aid efforts – and in a twist, Saudi Arabia was the biggest donor, exceeding the UK and the U.S. with a donation of $150 million. (The Saudi government also covered the U.N.'s entire $275 million appeal for Yemen humanitarian aid in 2015).