Aid Shipments to Hodeidah Decline as Fighting Continues
According to the UN World Food Programme, shipments of aid to the contested Yemeni port of Hodeidah have been cut in half over the past two weeks due to fighting.
"Shipping companies appear to be reluctant to call to Hodeidah port because of the high levels of insecurity in the city," said WFP spokesperson Herve Verhoosel, speaking to reporters this week. "We need to reassure the private sector to say 'come back to the port.'"
The UN has repeatedly warned that fighting near Hodeidah's port could harm millions of Yemenis. An estimated eight million people in Yemen are considered food insecure, and the number may soon rise by an additional 3.5 million. As the port of Hodeidah handles the majority of the nation's food imports, a shutdown could endanger the flow of the aid supplies that currently sustain much of the country's population.
According to UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric, the food supply situation in Hodeidah is deteriorating. "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," he told UAE outlet The National.
UN envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has been working with all parties to the conflict - Houthi rebels, the Yemeni government and its Saudi and UAE backers - in an attempt to convene a new round of peace talks in Stockholm. Mr. Griffiths' office expects that discussions could begin as early as next week.
In a twitter post, top Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Huthi indicated that his delegation would be willing to travel to Stockholm for talks on December 3, so long as they are guaranteed safe travel to and from Sweden. Saudi state outlet Al Arabiya announced that a joint Saudi-UAE delegation would join talks in Stockholm, so long as Houthi representatives arrived first. The last round of talks was scuttled when Houthi delegates did not arrive.
Griffiths has already negotiated the outlines of a potential ceasefire agreement, which calls for a cessation of hostilities in Hodeidah and the free flow of aid shipments. Houthi forces currently control the seaport, and they have agreed to turn it over to UN management as part of a deal, helping allay Saudi coalition concerns about smuggling. However, Houthi leaders would prefer to retain control of the surrounding city, which is beseiged by UAE-backed Yemeni forces.