In “a major breakthrough,” the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced that its first ship since conflict erupted in Yemen in March berthed today in the port of Aden after repeated attempts to reach huge numbers of increasingly desperate people and as intense fighting continues to take a serious toll on civilians.
“In the coming days we hope to reach more people, not only in Aden but throughout Yemen,” said Muhannad Hadi, WFP Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia and Eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, in the latest report on the toll the fighting is taking, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported that at least 165 civilians, including 53 children and 23 women, were killed between 3 and 15 July, and another 210 were injured during this period.
“The majority of the casualties are reported to have been caused by air strikes, but civilians are also regularly being injured and killed by mortar fire and in street fighting,” OHCHR Spokesperson Rupert Colville told reporters in Geneva, Switzerland.
“The total death toll since 26 March is now at least 1,693 civilians, with another 3,829 injured,” Mr. Colville said.
Reports suggest that Houthi-affiliated Popular Committees have actively been recruiting fighters, including children, who have been posted across the towns.
Ground clashes, shelling, sniping and detonation of Improvised Explosive Devices also continued between the Houthi-affiliated Popular Committees and armed groups loyal to former President Saleh on one side and the Local Popular Committees on the other side, the spokesman said.
As humanitarian needs mounted and intense fighting continued in Yemen, WFP announced that the MV Han Zhi, with 3,000 metric tonnes of food – enough to feed 180,000 people for one month – docked at Aden’s oil port of Al-Buraiqa.
Although the ship had arrived off Aden on 26 June, it had been forced to wait over three weeks for a safe window to berth, according to the agency.
“This is a major breakthrough for our humanitarian response in Yemen. While we have been able to reach several southern areas by land, docking at the port of Aden allows us to accelerate our response to meet urgent needs in southern Yemen,” said WFP’s Mr. Hadi.
WFP said it had made repeated attempts to send ships to Aden, all of which until today were blocked due to severe fighting in the port area.
Despite insecurity and extreme difficulties reaching Aden by road, WFP said it had delivered food to displaced families in the governorate. Through its local partner, WFP last reached Aden on 14 July with emergency food assistance for more than 27,000 people.
“More WFP-chartered ships are on stand-by near Aden carrying fuel and more food,” the agency said.
The number of food-insecure people in Yemen is close to 13 million, including more than 6 million people who cannot survive without external assistance, it said.
The human rights spokesman said “the conflict continues to take a serious toll on civilians, both in terms of direct violence and in terms of the effect on many economic, social and cultural rights.”