Peaceful marches to save Yemen’s al-Hodeida port

Hundreds of activists have embarked on a five-day march to a besieged port in Yemen to demand the establishment of a humanitarian zone in Yemen’s al-Hodeida and allow in aid.

Hundreds of activists embarked on a five-day peace march to al-Hodeida on Yemen’s coast to demand the establishment of a humanitarian zone in the besieged port city.

The five-day protest march – branded the #breadmarch – began on Wednesday when Yemeni activists left the UN’s Yemen headquarters in the capital Sanaa.

The activists and civilians taking part in the protest are demanding the establishment of a safe zone in al-Hodeida, which would allow desperately needed aid to enter the country.

The hundreds of activists were joined by civilians who took part in the arduous 200km march from Sanaa to Yemen’s west coast.

One of the organisers of the march, Edrees al-Shami, told The New Arab that 83 people were treated for heatstroke, exhaustion and blisters when they arrived in the port.

Another protester said that they hope the march will highlight the plight of the Yemeni people who have suffered hunger due to sieges and war to the world.

“We walked for 200km under the blazing sun to ask the UN and the international community to fulfill their moral and legal obligations towards us,” they told Hona al-Masirah TV.

Participants of the march held banners reading “Do not close, do not target Hodeida port” and “Do not starve the Yemeni people, do not commit genocide”.

One protester likened the march to Gandhi’s 1930 salt march in protest against British rule.

More than 8 in 10 Yemenis rely on food imports. The city port of Hodeida is the only route for much needed humanitarian aid into the country, but working at 40 percent of its capacity after Saudi jets bombarded its cranes in August 2015.

“The UN sent emergency small cranes to assist in unloading ships. They were confiscated and sent to UAE,” Shami said.

“UN property is confiscated by the coalition and you don’t hear outcry, or international condemnation.”

The Pentagon is reportedly trying encourage US President Donald Trump to back the Saudi-led operation to regain control of the port, which is currently held by Houthi rebels.

The naval blockade already means that 80 percent of food and medicines are not able to enter the country, and humanitarian groups are struggling to get desperately needed aid to those in need.

“Ships have to wait for weeks – sometimes months – to be granted permission [from the Saudi-led coalition] to enter Hodieda port. There is a sharp rise in prices of all commodities making the middle-class poor and the poor starving,” Shami added.

Due to difficulty with access and funding constraints, the World Food Programme had to downsize the caloric intake of each meal it distributes to reach the 6.7 million people urgently needing food assistance.

Hodeida is one of the governorates worst hit by the war which began when Yemeni rebels took over the capital in 2015.

The port is at risk of deteriorating into famine if adequate assistance is not provided, said the WFP in a recent press release.