HUDAYDAH, YEMEN — The United Nations’ (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) confirmed on Feb. 27 that a team had reached the Red Sea Mills near the key port of Hudaydah.

Grain that would help feed 3.7 million Yemenis has been stranded and possibly rotting at a grain storage facility in the war-torn port city.

The UN said it has appealed for sustained access to the site.

“The silos show evidence of damage by the fighting, but no apparent structural damage except the silo affected by a hit in late January, which basically resulted in serious fire damage to that specific silo,” said Hervé Verhoosel, a senior spokesperson with the UN.

“We have now a first assessment, we’ll probably need additional technical assessments,” he added.

In addition to fire damage to one silo, the assessment team found evidence of weevil infestation, but no water infiltration.

“Tuesday’s visit was a great first step,” Verhoosel said, noting that Yemen imports around 70% of its daily food, fuel and medicines via Hudaydah port, which has been the focus of clashes between government forces and Houthi opposition fighters, although a UN-backed ceasefire and troop-withdrawal negotiations are on-going.

“We need now sustained access every day as much as possible for WFP’s staff, but also later for the mill’s staff to access the facilities,” he said. “That will be necessary before we can start again milling the wheat.”

He said samples of the grain have been sent for testing to check whether it is still edible. If so, the 51,000 tonnes of wheat can be processed at the facility, where equipment is largely untouched and the generators “appear to be in good condition,” Verhoosel said, adding that more than 30,000 liters of diesel was still available.

The positive development is dependent on continued access being granted by the warring parties, who signed a UN-led partial ceasefire agreement in Sweden last December.

It follows a UN-led appeal for more than $4 billion from international donors this year, to save millions in Yemen from starvation.

The UN estimates some 360,000 children are now suffering from severe acute malnutrition.