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‘Smashed cranes’ slow aid flow to Yemen: UN aid chief

United Nations aid chief Stephen O'Brien speaks during a press conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 5, 2016. O'Brien told reporters that aid flow needed to increase at the Red Sea port, through which 80 to 90 percent of Yemen's supplies transited before the war. / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

United Nations aid chief Stephen O’Brien speaks during a press conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh on October 5, 2016.<br />O’Brien told reporters that aid flow needed to increase at the Red Sea port, through which 80 to 90 percent of Yemen’s supplies transited before the war. / AFP PHOTO / FAYEZ NURELDINE

“Smashed cranes” at Yemen’s rebel-held Hodeida port are hindering the entry of relief supplies to ease a deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the war-torn country, the UN aid chief said Wednesday.

On a visit to Saudi Arabia, Stephen O’Brien told reporters that aid flow needed to increase at the Red Sea port, through which 80 to 90 percent of Yemen’s supplies transited before the war.

“The real issue is the restriction of unloading capacity at the port because the cranes are smashed,” said O’Brien, who heads the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

He did not mention the cause of the damage to the cranes, but in August last year he said coalition air strikes on the port were in contravention of international humanitarian law.

The United States and the European Union at the time expressed concern over the bombing, which the United States said hit “critical infrastructure” at the port.

Saudi Arabia has for 18 months led an Arab military coalition supporting Yemen’s internationally recognised government against the Huthi rebels who have seized much of the country.

The war has killed more than 6,600 people, displaced 3.15 million and left about a quarter of Yemen’s population “not sure where the next meal is coming from”, O’Brien said after talks with Saudi officials.

His remarks came a day after he said it was “a matter of urgency” that flows of food, medicine and fuel increase into Yemen.

O’Brien said efforts were being made to find “a better unloading capacity, as well as make sure there are no administrative burdens which are slowing the process”.

The Saudi-led coalition has imposed a sea blockade on Yemen to prevent weapons reaching the rebels who it says are backed by Iran.

But O’Brien said a UN inspection mechanism to check commercial ships bringing supplies was working well, “with many ships now cleared to come into Hodeida”.


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Stephen O'Brien


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