By Patrick Wintour /Guardian News and Media
Yemen’s humanitarian situation has worsened rapidly since UN peace talks collapsed and fighting resumed in the port city of Hodeidah, where hundreds of thousands of lives hang in the balance, the top UN aid official in the country has said.
“The situation has deteriorated dramatically in the past few days. Families are absolutely terrified by the bombardment, shelling and airstrikes,” the UN humanitarian co-ordinator Lise Grande said in a statement.
Yesterday, the Saudi-led military coalition attacking Houthi rebels seized the main road into the strategic port city of Hodeida, weakening Houthi control over the supply of humanitarian aid into the country.
“The mills in Hodeida feed millions of people,” Grande said.
“We’re particularly worried about the Red Sea mill, which currently has 45,000 metric tonnes of food inside, enough to feed 3.5mn people for a month. If the mills are damaged or disrupted, the human cost will be incalculable,” she said.
The coalition restarted its offensive on the city at the weekend after UN-sponsored talks in Geneva failed to get off the ground last week.
The Houthis claimed they had not been given adequate assurances about their travel to Geneva.
It is not clear whether the military coalition, which includes Saudi, Emirati and local Yemeni forces, plans to try to enter the city itself, where more than 300,000 people live.
The capture of the main road and surrounding area, at a minimum, increases the coalition’s ability to lay siege to the city, but it could also move to capture the port itself, more than 40km to the north of the city, and so avoid the main populated areas.
A debate in the UK’s House of Commons on Wednesday revealed Conservative MPs were deeply divided over Saudi tactics, and the damage being inflicted on the reputation of the Gulf States due to the war.
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