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News.SKY.com: Scrapping for food to survive: Inside the frontline of Yemen's devastating civil war

Posted by: Berhane.Habtemariam59@web.de

Date: Monday, 18 February 2019

Sky News gets rare access to spots on the front line between Houthis and pro-government forces that are leaving people starving.

 

Yemen's warring parties have agreed to withdraw their forces from Hodeidah - providing fresh hope for the fragile ceasefire in the city.

No timeline has been announced for the withdrawal - it was originally scheduled for last month.

But Sky News has been told by forces who are reporting daily violations that the ceasefire agreement could collapse at any time.

An agreement was reached between Yemen's UN-recognised government and their rivals - the Houthis - at the end of last year.

17-mont-old Bashira, who weighs just 4kg, compared to the 9kg she should weigh at her age
Image: At 17 months old Bashira weighs just 4kg (9lb), compared to the 9kg (19lb) she should weigh

And amid this grinding war a desperate population struggling to survive is scrapping in the dirt for whatever handouts they can get.

Sky News gained rare access to Hodeidah by travelling along Yemen's west coast.

We were taken to the Red Sea Flour Mills on the edge of the city.

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The front line position is now controlled by the coalition - inside the stores the grain is spoiling in the heat.

Aid agencies say although the fighting has paused they can't cross the front lines to access the supplies.

Under the agreement of the new talks this should change and access should be allowed but confidence and trust between the two sides remains low.

Grain in a silo
Image: Tonnes of grain is in silos in Hodeidah but the people are unable to access it

The UN says the grain is enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month - vital food in a country where 10 million people are on the brink of famine.

Emirati forces claim it is the Houthis, who are less than a kilometre away, who are blocking distribution.

They have been accused of shelling the grain silos so that one was set alight and is still burning several weeks later.

The Houthis have meanwhile accused the coalition of violating the agreement.

A coalition soldier in Yemen
Image: Saudi and Emirati-led coalition soldiers are fighting Houthis in Yemen

The break in the fighting between the Iran-backed rebels and the Saudi-led coalition is the only flicker of hope for Yemen.

It is place where light no longer shines - famine and starvation stalk the population.

At a field hospital near Hodeidah the medical staff are barely coping - the place is full of sick and hungry children.

Some 13 days after she was admitted, Bashira is still struggling to breathe.

A hole in the roof of the silo shows the state of the store which could feed Yemen's people
Image: A hole in the roof of the silo shows the state of the store which could feed Yemen's people

The one-year-old's tiny lungs are weak from lack of food.

Dr Faris Ali Abdu Shami says she's one of the lucky ones.

"The situation is so bad. And there is not enough support like drugs, food, milk that children like her need," he says.

I ask him what happens to children like Bashira who don't get help.

Destruction in Yemen
Image: More than 10,000 people have been killed so far in Yemen's war

"They will die," he replies.

The war erupted out of an Arab Spring uprising.

But the conflict cannot be resolved through military might - the coalition believes controlling the main commercial port will clinch victory and restore Yemen's internationally recognised government.

The path to a political settlement will not be easy - the roads are littered with IEDs and landmines.

Coalition troops inspect recovered landmines
Image: Coalition troops inspect recovered landmines

Emirati forces are clearing and destroying them every day but even if the latest talks are successful the risk of further violence is great.

We were shown 1,200 anti-tank mines and 396 IEDs collected from various locations along the west coast of Yemen.

They were taken to the town of Mocha and destroyed.

But for now the stalemate remains and it is delicate.

Both sides have agreed to withdrawal measures but because the issue is so sensitive no timeline has been agreed.

Mines are destroyed
Image: Thousands of mines are being pulled from the ground and destroyed

If the negotiations fail, the lull in the fighting may not last much longer and the disaster of a full-scale offensive on Hodeidah may become reality.

The UK welcomed the agreement but urged all sides in the conflict to continue working together.

A Foreign and Commonwealth Office spokesperson said: "The UK welcomes progress made on agreeing redeployment of troops from Hodeidah by the government of Yemen and the Houthis this weekend.

"This encouraging progress represents a significant step forward in the political process. But more careful work remains to be done.

Yemeni forces
Image: The Houthis have been accused of violations but have agreed to withdraw

"The UK urges all parties to continue to work with the UN Special Envoy to rapidly finalise and implement the agreed plan.

"As the foreign secretary re-emphasised alongside UAE, US and Saudi Arabian foreign ministers at the Yemen Quad in Warsaw, a political settlement remains the only way to bring long-term stability to Yemen and to address the worsening humanitarian crisis.

"The Yemeni parties must engage constructively and in good faith to overcome obstacles and find a political solution to end the conflict."

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