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Food & Hunger

2.2 Yemeni Million Children Hungry in 'Catastrophic' Situation, Says UNICEF

In Yemen, civilians and children are paying the price for the country’s ongoing civil war.

2.2 million children in Yemen suffer from severe acute malnutrition, and another 1.7 million suffer from more moderate malnutrition, UNICEF reported yesterday.

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“The state of health of children in the Middle East’s poorest country has never been as catastrophic as it is today,” said Meritxell Relano, acting director of UNICEF in Yemen.

The UNICEF report offers a dire glimpse into the state of human rights in a country that’s been at war for almost two years now. Conditions are so bad that, every 10 minutes, one Yemeni child dies from either malnutrition, diarrhea or a respiratory tract infection.

Prior to the current conflict, malnourishment was already a problem in Yemen, which is the poorest country in the Middle East. But civil war between Houthi Rebels and an overthrown government — which is backed by a Saudi Arabian military coalition — have reversed what Relano called “significant gains” in the health of Yemeni children.

War has spiked the price of food in the country, according to the World Food Programme, while civilian displacement and unemployment have made most basic commodities unaffordable.

Moreover, inaccurate Saudi military bombers have destroyed hospitals, including one run by Doctors Without Borders (DWB). UNICEF reports less than half of the country's medical facilities are functional, and less than a third of the country have access to health care.

Which is devastating news for the millions of Yemeni children who are also effectively blocked from receiving international aid. Aid workers from UNICEF have been handicapped by conflict zones that limit their access to children in need.

“Violence and conflict have reversed significant gains made in the last decade in the health and nutrition of Yemeni children. Diseases such as cholera and measles have spread and, with few health facilities functional, such outbreaks are taking a heavy toll on children," said Relano.

So far, the organization has only been able to help 215,000 of the country’s malnourished children, coming in the form of immune boosting vitamin supplements and nutrition services.

But that’s only about 10% of those severely affected, which is why UNICEF will hope for some sort of ceasefire to take hold. In their press release, Melano called on “all parties in the conflict to give [UNICEF] unhindered access to children” —  as well as for $70 million in aid — in order to get the job done.