Almost 100,000 children risk death from severe malnutrition in Yemen

According to UN data, Yemen’s crisis has reached unprecedented levels. Six years after the start of the war, hunger, even famine, is increasingly likely. Donor countries, especially Saudi Arabia, have failed to fulfill their aid commitments. Out the US$ 3.2 billion dollars needed, only US$ 1.43 have been raised so far.

Sana'a (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The novel coronavirus pandemic, a declining economy, war and the collapse of international aid have worsened Yemen’s already devastating humanitarian crisis, causing an increase in child malnutrition, which has reached an unprecedented level, the UN said yesterday.

After six years of war, signs of hunger, or even worse, famine, are increasingly visible. In some parts of the country, experts warn, levels of acute child malnutrition are alarming. "Nearly 100,000 children are at risk of death,” a UN official said.

According to UN data, more than half a million children under five suffer from acute malnutrition in southern Yemen. An ongoing survey in the Houthi-controlled north is expected to produce “equally concerning” results.

According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the World Food Programme and UNICEF, a 15.5 per cent increase in severe malnutrition among children has left at least 98,000 of them at "high risk of dying" unless they receive urgent treatment.

"The data we are releasing today confirms that acute malnutrition among children is hitting the highest levels we have seen since the war started," said Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

According to the world body, "Escalating conflict and economic decline, plus the overwhelming impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, has pushed an already exhausted population to the brink”.

The war in Yemen began in 2014 pitting the pro-Saudi government and Shia Houthi rebels close to Iran. In March 2015, a Saudi-led Arab coalition joined the fighting, causing 10,000 deaths and 55,000 wounded. However, independent observers put the real death toll (as of late July 2018) to about 57,000.

For the UN, the conflict has caused the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world" and the novel coronavirus outbreak has had "devastating" effects, with millions of people close to hunger, children suffering the consequences that will last at least for the next 20 years.

Making matter worse, aid programmes have been cut, including emergency food because of a drop in funding. Only US$ 1.43 billion out of the needed US$ 3.2 billion have been provided according to the latest update in mid-October.

“If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” explained Lise Grande.