Dubai: Grain silos outside the port of Hodeida that are vital to UN plans to feed millions of needy Yemenis were hit by gunfire just days after aid staff gained access, the UN said Friday.
The World Food Programme is still assessing the damage from the Thursday attack, which caused no casualties, the UN agency’s senior spokesperson, Herve Verhoosel, said in a statement.
A WFP team finally gained access to the Red Sea Mills silos on Sunday after postponing its inspection visit for a month for security reasons.
The silos themselves are controlled by troops of a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting in support of the Yemen’s internationally-recognised government.
But they are close to front line with Al Houthimilitants who control the port and much of the city of Hodeida.
Verhoosel said the silos contained some 51,000 tonnes of grains - enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month.
“It appears that two silos were hit, one of which contains wheat,” he said. “There was no fire.”
Verhoosel told said the WFP was unaware who carried out the attack but the government has repeatedly accused Al Houthis of intentionally hijacking or sabatoging aid in order to hold the Yemeni people hostage.
In February, a WFP team visited the mills for the first time since September, when they became inaccessible due to heavy fighting between pro-government forces and the rebels.
The fighting has largely stopped under a UN-brokered ceasefire struck in Sweden in December but there have been intermittent clashes.
The more than four-year conflict in Yemen has killed tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, relief agencies say.
The fighting has triggered what the United Nations describes as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with 3.3 million people still displaced and 24.1 million - more than two-thirds of the population - in need of aid.