12 million Yemeni kids need aid; over 2 million may starve in 2021: UN

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Malnourished kids are more vulnerable to diseases, says the WHO. (Photo: Twitter / @UNICEF_Yemen)

Four United Nations (UN) agencies urged stakeholders on Friday, to end a year-long conflict that has brought Yemen to the brink of famine.

More than 2 million children of the Arab world’s poorest country, under the age of five, are likely to endure acute malnutrition in 2021, as per the UN agencies.

Nearly one in six of those children — 400,000 of the 2.3 million — are at risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition in 2021, warned the latest UN report.

This is a significant spike from the estimates of 2020.

‘Lack of funds hampering humanitarian schemes’

“A lack of funds has been hampering humanitarian programmes in Yemen, as donor countries have failed to make good on their commitments,” it said.

Compounding the crisis, around 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding women in Yemen are also projected to be acutely malnourished this year.

“The crisis in Yemen is a toxic mix of conflict, economic collapse and a severe shortage of funding,” says David Beasley, executive director of the World Food Programme.

In 2020, humanitarian programmes in Yemen received only $1.9 billion of the required $3.4 billion — a shortage of $1.5 billion, according to the report.

UNICEF estimates that virtually all of Yemen’s 12 million children require some sort of aid. This includes food aid, health services, clean water, schooling and cash grants to help the poorest families scrape by.

‘Solution: Food, end to the violence’

“But there is a solution to hunger, and that’s food and an end to the violence,” says Beasley.

Yemenis have suffered six years of bloodshed, destruction and humanitarian catastrophe. In 2014, the Iran-allied Houthi rebels seized the capital and much of the country’s north. A Saudi-led coalition launched a sweeping military intervention months later to restore the UN-backed government. Despite relentless Saudi air raids and a blockade of Yemen, the war has ground to a stalemate.

“Malnourished kids are more vulnerable to diseases… It is a vicious and often deadly cycle, but with relatively cheap and simple interventions, many lives can be saved,” says WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

(With inputs from agencies)

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