By Heba Kanso
BEIRUT, Sept 19 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) — Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children could die if renewed attacks damage or temporarily close the key port of Hodeidah, Save the Children said on Wednesday, after heavy fighting in the area resumed.
A new report by the charity said families were already struggling to afford food and transportation to health facilities as prices soared, and any further disruption could put another million children at risk of famine.
"Even the smallest disruption to food, fuel and aid supplies through its vital port could mean death for hundreds of thousands of malnourished children unable to get the food they need to stay alive," said Yemen representative Tamer Kirolos.
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Hodeidah is the main port of the impoverished Arab country, where around 8.4 million people are believed to be on the verge of starvation, and a lifeline for millions.
A Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebel group that controls the port has intensified its air campaign and resumed an offensive to capture it after peace talks collapsed earlier this month.
"This war risks killing an entire generation of Yemen's children who face multiple threats, from bombs to hunger to preventable disease — what kind of Yemen will there be?" said Kirolos.
More than 28,000 people have been killed or wounded during the war and 3 million have been uprooted, according to UN officials. Thousands more have died from malnutrition, disease and poor health.
Save the Children said a million more children in Yemen now risked falling into famine, taking the total number to 5.2 million.
Severely malnourished children are 12 times more likely to die from preventable diseases like pneumonia, measles, cholera or diphtheria, Kirolos said.
"(Children) are not getting enough to eat, they are being displaced, families can't afford to go to health facilities — they are losing their lives because of these attacks," Kirolos told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Sanaa.
The Norwegian Refugee Council has warned that more people will be killed by economic problems than by bombs and guns after food prices doubled in some parts of the country this month.
Stephen Anderson, the World Food Programme's (WFP) country director in Yemen, said the "deteriorating" security situation in Hodeidah threatened continued humanitarian assistance.
"WFP fears that the humanitarian situation will only continue to worsen, pushing families, and children into an increasingly desperate situation, which is not acceptable in the 21st century," he said if there is no end to the conflict.
(Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org)