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Black Sea grain deal 'critical' in addressing hunger in Yemen: US official

A view from a refugee camp located in Sanaa, Yemen. [Mohammed Hamoud - Anadolu Agency]
A view from a refugee camp located in Sanaa, Yemen. [Mohammed Hamoud - Anadolu Agency]

The Black Sea grain initiative has been 'critical' to addressing hunger in Yemen, a senior US official said Tuesday, Anadolu News Agency reports.

US Agency for International Development (USAID) Assistant Administrator for humanitarian assistance, Sarah Charles, emphasised to lawmakers that Yemen historically relied heavily on wheat imports from Ukraine and Russia, and said the continuation of the imports is a critical lifeline for Yemenis.

READ: Yemen warns wheat stock to run out amid Ukraine war

"The first US-supported vessel transporting wheat from Ukraine arrived at the port of Hodeida on 14 October, " she told a House of Representatives Foreign Affairs subcommittee. "This shipment will feed 2.1 million people and additional grain vessels arriving later this month."

US Special Envoy for Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, said Yemen is at a "critical moment".

READ: In an empty kitchen, Yemeni family struggles with hunger

"We must preserve the positive momentum and gains made since April," he said. "This includes condemning recent Houthi attacks and increasing our calls for a Yemeni-led inclusive political process."

He said a series of recent attacks by Houthis threatening international maritime shipping was "worrying".

Last month, days before its scheduled expiration, the landmark grain deal signed in Istanbul in July by Turkiye, the UN, Russia and Ukraine, was extended for another 120 days, beginning 19 November.  Except for a brief hiatus, it has enabled food shipments to the world ever since.

Yemen's civil war began in September 2014 when Houthi rebels captured much of the country, including the capital, Sana'a. A military coalition led by Saudi Arabia entered the war in early 2015 to restore the government to power.

The eight-year conflict has created one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world, with millions risking starvation.

READ: WFP further cuts food aid to Yemen, causing millions more Yemenis to starve

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