By Lisa Schlein
GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — UN agencies warn hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished children in war-torn Yemen could die because of food shortages and lack of money to provide life-saving therapeutic treatment.
Years of prolonged conflict in Yemen are taking a heavy toll, especially on the children. The United Nations calls Yemen the worst humanitarian and security crisis in the world. It warns 14 million people, or one half of the population, are on the brink of famine. The main casualties are the children.
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Before the war, the country had one of the highest rates of malnutrition in the world. Since the Saudi-led coalition began its campaign of airstrikes against Houthi rebels in support of the government in March 2015, malnutrition levels have soared.
The UN children’s fund warns 400,000 children under age five are suffering from severe acute malnutrition and are at risk of dying. UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac said every year, 30,000 children under age 5 are dying from malnutrition related diseases. He said one half of Yemen’s young children are chronically malnourished.
“One-point-one million pregnant or lactating women are anemic and that is a vicious cycle. When giving birth, these women know that their children will be of low birth-weight starting that cycle of malnutrition. And, as we all know, chronic malnutrition has an incredibly important impact on child brain development. Every 10 minutes a child is dying from diseases that can be easily prevented,” he said.
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Fighting in Yemen has led to the almost total collapse of the country’s health system. It also has prevented the import of food, fuel, medicine and other supplies critical for the well-being of the population.
For example, the World Health Organization reports the current supply of fuel imports through the port of Hudaydah only cover about half of the country’s needs. It adds the fuel is vital to keep hospitals running. It says these hospitals house the therapeutic feeding centers that could save the lives of severely malnourished children.