01/31/2022, 00.00
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Starving Yemenis eat leaves to survive

The World Food Programme is warning of a growing emergency caused by "war and economic decline". More than 16 million people are suffering from acute hunger. From January 2020 to May 2021, almost 2,000 child soldiers died. Military training also involves children as young as seven years old. 


Sana'a (AsiaNews) - The growing poverty in Yemen, exacerbated by a conflict that has recently seen an escalation of violence with daily attacks in the country and across the border in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, has forced families to eat leaves to survive. This is the alarm raised by UN experts from the World Food Programme (WFP), according to which more and more people are at risk of hunger and severe famine, including children. 

In a note published yesterday, the UN agency stresses that the chronic lack of food is "a growing emergency" in the Arab nation, marked by "war and economic decline". "Families in some of Yemen's worst-hit areas, such as Hajjah [in the northwest], are taking desperate measures such as eating leaves to survive," the statement continued. 

In a tweeted message, the World Food Programme published a photo of a Yemeni family cooking leaves. Only last month, the UN agency raised the issue of the gradual decrease in aid linked to the drastic drop in available funds, and necessary to alleviate the chronic suffering and hunger of large sections of the population. 

Recent estimates by Pam report that over 16 million Yemenis, more than half the country, are suffering from acute hunger, while 2.3 million children are at risk of malnutrition. The civil war that flared up in 2014 and the entry of a Saudi-led Arab coalition in March of the following year to fight the Houthi rebel militias (backed by Iran) triggered one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. UN estimates state that about 80% of the population (30 million people) are in need of assistance and protection, and more than 13 million are at risk of malnutrition.

The conflict has resulted in losses of 6 billion to the national economy, while the number of child soldiers killed in the fighting on the ground continues to rise. A report commissioned by the UN Security Council found that nearly 1,500 children - including 10-year-olds - died as a result of the war in 2020 and several hundred last year. Since 2015, more than 10,000 children have been killed, not only as a result of bombings or cross-attacks, but directly involved in the conflict: the 300-page report submitted to the Security Council mentions 1,406 children recruited by the Houthis and killed on the battlefield in 2020 and 562 between January and May last year.

The children are trained by pro-Tehran rebels to shout "death to America, death to Israel". In one camp, there are even seven-year-olds who are taught how to clean weapons or escape from rockets. UN experts appeal to the warring parties not to use "schools, summer camps or mosques to recruit children" and call for exemplary punishment for violators. 

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