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Food & Hunger

Fighting in This Port City in Yemen Could Devastate Famine Aid Delivery

As the civil war in Yemen enters its third year, more than 21 million people need humanitarian aid, 7 million of whom are facing famine. And it could get worse.

The western port city of Hodeidah is expected to become a flashpoint point in the Yemeni civil war as a Saudi Arabia-led coalition plans to launch a major offensive against the Houthi-held city. An increase in fighting at a port that is vital for delivering humanitarian aid could exacerbate an already dire food crisis, according to Amnesty International.

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“Any attack on the city of Hodeidah would have major consequences on the flow of imports,” Rasha Mohamed, of Amnesty International, told PRI. “They are talking about only three months left of food.”

About 90% of Yemen's food is imported, and roughly 80% of all goods imported into Yemen entered via Hodeidah at the time the conflict started. The port is no longer operating at full capacity due to the war. A new offensive could cripple it further.

In addition to the fighting, financial hiccups have also prevented the delivery of food aid.

Last August, Yemen’s government moved the central bank from the Houthi-controlled capital city of Sanaa, to the southern city of Aden, Reuters reports. The move halted trade finance and disrupted wheat imports, leaving the nation with only three months’ supply of wheat, as of last January.  

The conflict in Yemen goes back to 2011 with the failed transition of power from authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh to Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadid. Armed Houthi groups — Zaidi Shia Muslims loyal to Saleh — soon took over the northern Sadaa province and entered the capital city Sanaa in September 2014. The following May, the-Saudi led coalition (eight Sunni Arab states with support from the US, UK and France) entered the conflict in support of the internationally-recognized leader Hadid.

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Ever since, more than 13,000 people have been killed or injured and more than 3 million displaced from their homes due to the conflict. More than 17 million are food insecure. Meanwhile, perpetual air strikes have continued to kill civilians and devastate the country’s infrastructure.

Aid organizations are adamant that access to ports and roads remain undisturbed to help those who aren’t taking part in the fighting but are suffering nonetheless.   

“Yemen’s food crisis could become even more severe if the international community does not send a clear message that a possible attack against Al-Hudaydah [Hodeidah], the entry point for an estimated 70% of Yemen’s food imports, would be totally unacceptable,” Oxfam International said in a press release.

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“It is vital that all parties to the conflict grant unfettered access for impartial humanitarian assistance so that it can reach civilians in need without delay,” Amnesty International said.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) announced it will double its aid budget in Yemen to address the deepening crisis.

Though international aid organizations like Oxfam, Amnesty International, and ICRC have responded by raising funds and supplies to relieve the crisis in Yemen, humanitarian efforts are futile if emergency food and water relief fails to reach people in need.