UN: millions of children in Yemen could face starvation amid aid shortfall
Millions of children could be pushed to the brink of starvation as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across war-torn Yemen amid a "huge" drop in humanitarian aid funding, the U.N. children’s agency warned Friday, AP reports.
The stark prediction comes in a new UNICEF report, “Yemen five years on: Children, conflict and COVID-19.” It said the number of malnourished Yemeni children could reach 2.4 million by the end of the year, a 20% increase in the current figure.
“As Yemen’s devastated health system and infrastructure struggle to cope with coronavirus, the already dire situation for children is likely to deteriorate considerably,” warned UNICEF.
Yemen's poor health care infrastructure is unprepared to battle the coronavirus pandemic after five years of war between a Saudi-led military coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The war, which has mostly stalemated, has also triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The conflict erupted in 2015, when the Saudi-led coalition stepped in on behalf of the internationally recognized government, which the Houthis had forced into exile when they overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north the previous year.
The situation in Yemen is only expected to get worse as donor countries recently cut back on aid. Yemen has officially recorded more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, including 275 deaths. However, the actual tally is believed to be much higher as testing capabilities are severely limited.
“If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF's representative to Yemen. “The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children ... simply do not matter.”