The humanitarian crisis continues to cause terrible suffering for the youngest in the war-torn country, four UN agencies write in a joint statement Friday.
While 400,000 children may starve to death, it is estimated that 2.3 million children under the age of 5 will suffer as a result of severe malnutrition. They make up half of all children in this age group in Yemen.
Although young children survive severe malnutrition, it can have major consequences for their development, both physically and cognitively. It is worst if the children suffer from malnutrition in their first two years of life. The damage is largely irreversible, and will eventually lead to disease, poverty and inequality.
Both the World Children’s Fund (Unicef), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Food Program (WFP) support the warning.
Too little contribution
This is far from the first time the UN has warned that large sections of Yemen’s youngest population have been hit extremely hard by the war. The level of malnutrition has almost never been worse than it has been since the war escalated in 2015.
The leader of the World Food Program, David Beasley, hoped that last year’s Nobel Peace Prize would lead to greater awareness of food shortages in the world, not least in Yemen. But that does not seem to have happened.
“These figures are just another cry for help from Yemen, where every malnourished child also means that a family is struggling to survive,” Beasley said in a joint statement.
The number of children at risk of dying from malnutrition – 400,000 – means an increase of 22 percent during 2020.
In 2020, the world community contributed less than half the amount needed by aid organizations to help the people of Yemen.
– Children die every single day
“For every day that goes by without action, more children will die,” said Unicef leader Henrietta Fore.
She points out that aid organizations need both predictability in terms of resources and unhindered access to the ground in order to save lives.
In addition to the food shortage among the many children, it is also expected that 1.2 million pregnant and breastfeeding women will suffer from extreme malnutrition in 2021.
“The crisis in Yemen is a toxic mix of war, economic collapse and a serious lack of funding to provide the life-saving assistance that is desperately needed,” Beasley said.
Hope under Biden
Yemen is embroiled in a bloody war between the Yemeni Houthi movement and a Saudi-led coalition that supports the country’s internationally recognized government.
The war is also seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, which supports the Houthis.
The United States backed Saudi Arabia’s involvement in the war in 2015, and support was consolidated while Donald Trump was president. One of the last things Trump did before resigning was to put the Yemeni Houthi movement on the US terror list.
On Friday, the Biden administration removed the movement from the list, removing a number of barriers to bringing emergency aid into Houthi-controlled areas. Biden has also announced that US military support for Saudi Arabia’s warfare will stop.
Since 2014–2015, the Houthis have controlled most of the northern part of the country, including the capital Sana.
According to the UN, the war has led to three million people being forced to flee, and that 80 percent of the 29 million inhabitants are dependent on emergency aid. The humanitarian crisis has been called the world’s worst by the UN.
– Public attention is declining, and it is very risky, says Luca Russo, an analyst at FAO, who warns that the fighting must stop in order for the suffering to be less.
– If they are not stopped or reduced, we will not experience any way out of this situation, he says.