Urgent need to reach hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished children before it’s too late
An estimated 85,000 children under five may have died from extreme hunger since the war in Yemen escalated, according to new analysis by Save the Children. That’s the equivalent of every single child under the age of five in Birmingham, Britain’s second biggest city.
Using data compiled by the UN, Save the Children evaluated mortality rates for untreated cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children under five years. The charity calculated that even by a conservative estimate approximately 84,700 children with SAM may have died between April 2015 and October 2018.[i]
Almost four years after the brutal conflict in Yemen escalated the UN says that up to 14 million people could be at risk of famine. That number has increased dramatically since the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition imposed a month-long blockade of Yemen just over a year ago.
Since then, commercial imports of food through Hodeidah port have declined by more than 55,000 metric tonnes a month. That would be enough to meet the needs of 4.4 million people, including 2.2 million children. Any further decline in imports would be likely to lead directly to famine.
Extreme hunger in Yemen
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen, said:
“We are horrified that some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died because of extreme hunger since the war began. For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable.
“Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop. Their immune systems are so weak they are more prone to infections with some too frail to even cry. Parents are having to witness their children wasting away, unable to do anything about it.
“Save the Children has provided food for 140,000 children and treated more than 78,000 children for malnutrition since the start of the crisis. Despite the challenges, we’re saving lives every day.”
Fighting, blockades and bureaucracy have forced Save the Children to bring vital supplies for the north of the country through the southern port of Aden. As a result, it can take up to three weeks for aid to reach people instead of the week it would take if Hodeidah port was fully operational.
Save the Children has also observed a dramatic increase in airstrikes on Hodeidah over recent weeks. Increased fighting has also been reported in Taiz, Saada and Sanaa.
Tamer Kirolos added:
“In the past few weeks there have been hundreds of airstrikes in and around Hodeidah, endangering the lives of an estimated 150,000 children still trapped in the city. Save the Children is calling for an immediate end to the fighting so no more lives are lost.
“We urgently need to get high-nutrient foods to the most vulnerable children in Yemen, some of whom are truly on the brink. Just £50 can feed a family of seven for a whole month. One child dying from starvation is one child too many.”
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