United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Lise Grande says talks for the U.N. to take administrative control of the Hodeida International Airport in Yemen are in advanced stages, according to The Guardian.
U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in Sana'a, the nation's capital, on Saturday to attempt to broker a cease-fire between the Houthi rebel group that's backed by Iran, and the coalition led by Saudi Arabia.
Arab airstrikes have battered the surrounding area causing bloodshed and threatening to worsen the situation which has been called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. On Sunday, witnesses in the area reported seeing airstrikes on the airport as the Saudi coalition attempted to take control from the Houthis, according to the Associated Press.
The Red Sea port is vital to Yemen as 80 percent of essential imports enter the country through Hodeida and many fear that any damage to the port would put millions of Yemenis at risk.
"Twenty-two million people in Yemen depend on humanitarian assistance. If we can't provide what they need, they're going to be in terrible trouble," Grande told NPR's David Greene. "We have to keep that port open, we have to make sure that people get the supplies that they need."
In a statement released Saturday Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, director-general for the World Health Organization called on both sides of the conflict to protect the port.
"With the intensification of fighting around Hodeida, I am deeply concerned about the impact it will have on the lives, health and welfare of the 1.6 million people living in the city and its environs, and on the people of Yemen more broadly," Tedros said.
Of Yemen's 27 million population, 22.2 million are in need of assistance and 8.4 million are at risk of starvation.
The country's civil war has lasted for years with the conflict between the Iran-backed Houthis that overthrew the government and the coalition between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, that the United States has supported.
During the years since the conflict started, the country's people have also dealt with cholera and diphtheria outbreaks as both the health systems and infrastructure have been heavily damaged.
Though Griffiths is said to be in advanced stages of talks, The Guardian reports that there are doubts all the parties will be able to come to an agreement. Griffiths is expected to deliver a report on the situation to the U.N. Security Council on Monday.