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UN accesses key wheat silos in Yemen’s Hodeida

By AHMED AL-HAJMay 5, 2019

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A U.N. agency said Sunday it has gained access to silos in Yemen’s port city of Hodeida that may hold enough grain to feed hundreds of thousands of people in the conflict-battered country.

World Food Program spokesman Herve Verhoosel said a technical team accessed the Red Sea mills facility for the first time since February. The facility held some 51,000 metric tons of wheat — enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month — when the site was rendered inaccessible by fighting in September.

The agency said its team concluded in February that around 70 percent of the wheat may still be salvageable.

“More than 2 months have passed since that assessment and the wheat will have most likely further deteriorated in quality, particularly given the hot weather conditions,” Verhoosel said.

Yemen’s government and an allied Saudi-led coalition have been at war with the Houthis since 2015. The fighting has killed tens of thousands of people and driven the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine. The U.N. says Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the rebel-held capital, Sanaa, on an unannounced visit Sunday to discuss the situation in and around the coastal city of Hodeida, where Yemen’s warring parties agreed to a cease-fire late last year, Yemeni officials said. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Hodeida is the main international entry point for 70 percent of imports and humanitarian aid to Yemen.

The two sides have agreed to withdraw their forces, but are divided over who will run the port once they pull out. The U.N.-brokered deal reached in Sweden in December was vague on that point, saying only that a “local force” would take over without specifying who would lead it.

Griffiths met with rebel leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi for talks on the pullout and a long-stalled prisoner exchange. Mohammed Abdul-Salam, a rebel spokesman, confirmed the talks without providing further details.

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