By Michael Hernandez
WASHINGTON (AA) - The UN urged Yemen's Houthi rebels Thursday to restore access to a grain storage site at a key port city after nearly a half-year blockade and a worsening famine in the country.
The Red Sea Mills in Yemen's al-Hudaydah contain enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month, but the UN has been unable to access them since September, humanitarian aid chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement.
The grain has been left unused for more than four months and could be spoiling, Lowcock said. Just last month the compound, which lies in government-controlled territory, was hit by two mortar rounds resulting in a fire that burned some of the stored food.
Nearly 10 million people in Yemen are on the brink of famine.
Houthi-affiliated forces known as Ansar Allah have blocked the UN from crossing frontlines to access the mills, the aid chief said.
"Access to the mills grows ever more urgent as time passes and the risk of spoilage to the remaining grain increases," Lowcock said. "We can save huge numbers of people, most of them in areas controlled by Ansar Allah. But we need more help to do that from the authorities who control these areas."
Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of countries against the Houthis since 2015 when Riyadh and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains that began the year prior.
The Saudi-led campaign in Yemen has devastated the country's infrastructure, including its health and sanitation systems, prompting the UN to describe it as one of the worst humanitarian disasters of modern times.
Al-Hudaydah is a major lifeline for Yemen's beleaguered civilian population with significant amounts of humanitarian aid flowing through the port city.
*Betul Yuruk contributed to this report from the United Nations