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Famine fears grow amid a continued blockade


SANA’A, NOVEMBER 24, 2017 - Yemen is seeing an estimated 20,000 new cases of severely malnourished children aged under-5 every month, an average of 27 children every hour. These numbers are likely to rise significantly despite the reported opening of access to humanitarian supplies, as a continued restriction on commercial and humanitarian imports pushes prices of basic goods beyond the reach of ordinary families, warns Save the Children.

A total blockade imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition on Yemen’s northern ports of entry over the past few weeks has pushed the country even further into crisis. Dozens of humanitarian shipments and aid flights carrying life-saving supplies were turned back. The Coalition has announced it will open access for humanitarian relief but commercial supplies to the main port of Hodeidah – which handles around 80% of the Yemen’s imports – remain blocked.

A continued commercial blockade on Hodeidah is aggravating the already devastating food crisis, leading to a significant increase in child deaths from acute malnutrition and preventable diseases. The prices of basic goods like milk, sugar and petrol have risen sharply forcing many parents to make impossible choices like whether to buy medicine for a sick child or food for a hungry one.

Abdu Saleh, father to 10-month-old Qais*, said:

“Sometimes my son is breastfed by his mother and sometimes we have to give him formula because his mother doesn’t have any milk. I cannot provide her with enough nutrition to breastfeed the baby. The blockade is affecting all citizens, no food has entered the country, no medicine…now half the people are dying because of it.”

The cut in supplies, whether humanitarian aid or commercial goods, means a widespread famine is possible within 3-4 months. Already, seven million people are struggling to get even one meal a day.

In addition, Yemen needs an estimated 4.8 million litres of diesel a month just to operate its public water systems. At least seven cities have reported running out of clean water and some health facilities warn a lack of running water and fuel for generators will force them to close their doors. Without access to clean water we expect to see a spike in diseases like cholera and diphtheria, with malnourished children the most vulnerable. The blockaded Hodeidah port can handle 150 million litres of fuel a month – Aden can only handle a third of that – 50 million litres.

Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director, Save the Children, said:

“Yemeni children, it seems, are being intentionally starved and deprived of life-saving medicines and vaccines. We see the impact of this every day, when desperate parents bring their acutely malnourished children in for treatment because they can’t feed them. Unfortunately, too many young children don’t get help in time and lose their lives. This is an entirely preventable and man-made tragedy. As long as a blockade on commercial imports remains, Yemeni children will continue to suffer.”

“All sides in this conflict have impeded aid access. Over the last few weeks the Saudi-led coalition has prevented more than two dozen ships carrying 500,000 tonnes of food and fuel from docking at Hodeidah port.”

“The fuel shortages have meant that the price of clean drinking water has quadrupled in some areas while the cost of other staples like sugar and wheat have risen sharply as well. The choke-hold on Yemen now means millions of people are at a greater risk of famine and disease. We urgently need to see full access for both humanitarian and commercial supplies opened to all ports of entry in Yemen.

We have spokespeople in London, Jordan and Yemen available for comment.

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·         The Yemen Nutrition Cluster has seen 59,873 admissions to hospitals and clinics for severe acute malnutrition in under-fives, across all of Yemen, for the three months from July to September. This data was collected before the latest blockade was imposed on November 6th.   

·         Yemen is facing the largest food security emergency in the world. 17 million people don’t know where their next meal is coming from.

·         Due to higher food prices and decreasing incomes and livelihoods opportunities, more than 80% of Yemenis are in debt, and over 50% of households are buying food on credit.

·         14.8 million people, including 8.1 million children, are without sufficient access to healthcare, with only 46% of health facilities fully functional.

·         4 million children and pregnant and lactating women (PLW) require urgent humanitarian nutrition services to treat or prevent malnutrition (148% increase since late 2014).

·         15.7 million people, including 8 million children, need support to meet their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs. Yemen is the 7th most water-scarce county in the world.

·         2 million children (27% of the 7.3 million school-aged) are currently out of school, in Yemen, with more than 2,470 schools damaged, occupied or closed due to the conflict.



·         Food Security & Livelihoods: Food, cash and work opportunities, general food assistance through voucher/cash transfer programs, where feasible.

·         Nutrition: Save the Children is currently treating 26,479 children for moderate or severe acute malnutrition across Yemen.

·         Health: Offering drugs, equipment and medical supplies, rehabilitation and refurbishment of primary health care facilities, responding to cholera outbreak.

·         Sanitation: Offering water and sanitation services, hygiene promotion, strengthening facilities and services in institutions (schools, health & nutrition centers, cholera treatment centers, etc).

·         Child Protection: Comprehensive case management services for children, with focus on girls and boys most exposed to different risks, abuse, violence and hazards and mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS).

·         Education: Promoting community alternative learning programmes, capacity strengthening of teachers, rehabilitation of schools and provision of school supplies, provision of education materials and supplies to teachers and students.