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Conflict ICRC: Fighting intensifying around key Yemen port

A fisherman paddles his boat past destroyed buildings on the coast of the port city of Hodeida

Held by Houthi fighters, the port city of Hodeida is the main gateway for imports of relief supplies.

(Keystone)

The Swiss-based International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has welcomed the renewal of peace efforts in Yemen which it hopes will alleviate the escalation of violent flare-ups around a strategic humanitarian aid port.

"After a lull at the end of last week, fighting has intensified in the last two days,” testified Sanaa Mirella Hodeib, a spokesperson for the ICRC delegation in Yemen, on Wednesday.

“While the city of Hodeida is surrounded by fighting, the port itself has not yet been affected,” she noted. “Humanitarian aid can therefore still be delivered, despite the many difficulties."

About 70% of humanitarian aid passes through this strategic port on the Red Sea, located more than 200 kilometres east of the war-torn nation’s capital, Sanaa.

"Many families (each consisting of 10-15 people) only eat one meal a day. In some cases, the meal consists of a loaf of bread. Diseases are resurfacing due to the lack of vaccination campaigns for several years,” Hodeib said.  “And with many families, you have to choose between buying medicine or food.”

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Nearly 80% of Yemen’s population of 28 million lacks secure supplies of food, according to the World Food Programme. The United Nations warns that 14 million Yemenis are now on the brink of famine.

The ICRC stressed that a halt to the fighting is needed to ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian aid.

+ ICRC on Yemen: Before we can talk about peace, we must talk about warexternal link

It welcomed the resumption of peace efforts by the United Nations, whose envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in the Yemeni capital in Tuesday. "Anything that can help de-escalate, a ceasefire is welcome,” Hobeib said.

After failure in Geneva, efforts are underway to hold the next round of peace talks in Sweden by the end of 2018.  

On Tuesday, Save the Children reported that 85,000 children have died from disease or hunger since the start of the conflict in 2015.

"For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens die of starvation," said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's director in Yemen, in a statementexternal link.

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swissinfo.ch with input from Frédéric Burnand in Geneva

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