SANA’A, 12 February: Save the Children is horrified to find that an estimated 2.3 million children under five in Yemen will go hungry or be on the brink of starvation by the end of this year – half of all children in that age bracket. Yemen faces an unprecedented hunger crisis after six years of conflict, the agency warned.
This is an increase of 16 percent compared to the same time last year and the highest number on record in the country.
New UN data published today projected that more than 2 million children are projected to be malnourished in 2021. An estimated 400,000 of these children will suffer from the most severe form of malnourishment - without care, many of them could die of starvation or diseases.
The data also reveals that 1.2 million pregnant and breast-feeding mothers will be malnourished by the end of the year, meaning more children are set to be born in hunger.
According to the data, conflict-hit regions such as Taiz, Hodeidah, Sa’ada and Ibb will suffer emergency levels of food shortages (IPC Phase 4). Data from health facilities supported by Save the Children in the North of Yemen, an area already hit hard by funding cuts, showed a 52% increase of malnourished children between July-Dec 2020 compared to 2019.
Four-month-old Noor* has been diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition and diarrhoea. Her mother Safiya* spoke from one of the hospitals supported by Save the Children in Taiz.
“I took Noor* to the hospital. The doctor prescribed milk for her. I used to buy the milk bottle for her for 3000 YER ($12). Now I buy it for 4000 YER ($16). We are suffering because we cannot afford to buy her milk and other [goods].
“We do not want to live [like this] anymore. I’m so depressed. All children are sick. I [have] really lost hope. We do not have the required food. If we have lunch, we do not have dinner. Sometimes my children sleep without dinner or water.”
With the conflict in Yemen almost going into its 7th year, the largest humanitarian crisis in the world has been exacerbated by disrupted food supplies, rising fuel prices, a battered health system and a collapse of the economy.
Xavier Joubert, Save the Children’s Country Director for Yemen, said:
“These numbers are horrific. It’s deeply worrying that millions of children are already in a daily battle for survival and that it’s only getting even worse. The figures are a clear warning that 2021 is going to be a long and possibly deadly year for children in Yemen unless urgent action is taken.”
“The world must not accept that children continue to die from hunger, disease and war. Hunger in Yemen is an entirely man-made legacy of this war, and the increase in malnutrition levels around conflict lines shows the impact of this brutal conflict on children.
“We welcome recent efforts from the U.S. and other governments to engage more proactively to resolve Yemen’s conflict, including suspending arms sales, increasing engagement with the peace process and removing obstacles for humanitarian access. Other countries must follow suit to really have an impact on the lives of children. Fuelling the war is a responsibility shared by international governments that have generated billions of dollars on the back of children's lives, and this must end.”
Denisa Delic, Head of UK Influencing at Save the Children UK, said:
“The scale of the need is unimaginable. There are more children on the brink of starvation in Yemen than the populations of Birmingham and Manchester combined. In this context and given the UK’s focus of combatting hunger and famine, the UK must pledge an increase in the amount of lifesaving aid we are donating to Yemeni children.
“Only a lasting ceasefire, along with a political solution between all parties to the conflict that allows unrestricted humanitarian access to the most vulnerable families, can end this crisis. As UN Security Council President and penholder, it is the responsibility of the UK to help make this happen.”
*All names are changed for protection
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