September 28, 2020

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Millions of Yemeni children could starve without urgent aid: UNICEF

The number of malnourished children in war-torn Yemen could rise to 2.4 million by the end of 2020 because of a massive shortfall in aid, a new report by UNICEF has warned.

Millions of children in Yemen could be pushed towards starvation by the end of the year as the humanitarian crisis is compounded by a lack of funding as the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, UNICEF said on Friday.

A report by the United Nations children’s agency has indicated that the number of malnourished children under the age of five in the war-torn country could rise by 20% — to 2.4 million — unless the international community makes up for a massive shortfall in aid.

“If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die,” said UNICEF Yemen representative Sara Beysolow Nyanti. “We cannot overstate the scale of this emergency.”

Yemen has been ravaged by war for over five years, during which Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, face an internationally-recognized government that is supported by a Saudi-led coalition. During this period, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence.

The UN has said that it is unable to keep an inflow of aid as the crisis shows no sign of ending. UNICEF needs nearly $461 million for its humanitarian response, along with $53 million for an effective COVID-19 response. Only 39% and 10% of these, respectively, have been funded.

Yemen’s healthcare system was already on the brink of collapse as it dealt with diseases like cholera, malaria and dengue, but the pandemic has just brought it dangerously close to shutting down. The country has reported over 1,000 infections but experts say that many go unreported because of lacking medical infrastructure.

The UN children’s agency also warned that nearly 7.8 million children were not in school, which puts them at a higher risk of exploitation through child labor, early marriage and recruitment into armed groups.

“UNICEF has previously said, and again repeats, that Yemen is the worst place in the world to be a child and it is not getting any better, “Nyanti said.

see/rc (AFP, Reuters, dpa) (DW)