Rate of starving children in Yemen reaches new high, UN warns

Bel Trew
·2-min read
A malnourished child cries at the malnutrition treatment ward of al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (REUTERS)
A malnourished child cries at the malnutrition treatment ward of al-Sabeen hospital in Sanaa, Yemen October 27, 2020. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah (REUTERS)

The rates of starving children in parts of Yemen are the highest ever recorded, the United Nations has said, warning that in some areas one in five children under the age of five are acutely malnourished and in need of life-saving treatment.

After reviewing 133 districts in south Yemen, three UN agencies counted more than half a million acute malnutrition cases in children including at least 98,000 under the age of five who are at risk of dying if they do not have urgent treatment.

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations child agency (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) said that was a 10 percent increase on last year.

Cases of children with severe acute malnutrition rose 15.5 percent, and at least a quarter-million pregnant or breastfeeding women also need malnutrition treatment.

The worst hit area is within the coastal governorate of Hodeidah that had long been the front line of the fighting. There the UN agencies said that 27 percent or more than a quarter of all children are starving.

They also registered high levels of acute malnutirtion among children in the southern and central governorates of Abyan, Lahj and Taiz lowlands.

The report warned that the true number of malnutrition cases was likely much higher as they have yet to examine the northern districts of the country.

“If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” said Ms. Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

“We can’t do what’s necessary because we don’t have funding,” she added.

She said the UN in Yemen had in the past been able to “roll-back” the worst famine in a generation through “massive amounts” of humanitarian assistance which is fast diminishing as the world is in the grips of an economic downturn in part due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The UN needs more than $50 million to urgently scale up its nutrition programmes. By mid-October just US$1.43 billion of the US$3.2 billion needed in 2020 has been received.

“The lives of thousands of children and women are at stake. Acute malnutrition can be treated and prevented with a package of key services but for that we need urgent action and support,” said Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF Yemen Representative.