Yemen war: At least 85,000 children ‘dead from starvation’

Friday, 23 Nov, 2018

On Monday, the brief Saudi-declared ceasefire in Yemen's aid port of Hodeidah suddenly ended, with pro-Saudi forces launching a flurry of attacks backed by Saudi warplanes.

Western countries are pressing for a cease-fire and renewed peace efforts to end the disastrous conflict, which has unleashed the world's most urgent humanitarian crisis with 8.4 million people believed to be on the verge of starvation.

Almost 85,000 children aged below five have starved to death over the last three years because of the civil war in Yemen, a report from Save the Children, an worldwide NGO, has said.

Save the Children said the "conservative" estimate is based on average mortality rates for Severe Acute Malnutrition, which the United Nations says has afflicted more than 1.3 million children since a Saudi-led coalition went to war with Yemen's Houthi rebels in March 2015.

The charity warned that the number of cases has dramatically increased since a Saudi Arabia led coalition imposed a month-long blockade on the impoverished country a year ago. Save the Children's country director in Yemen, Tamer Kirolos, warns that around 150,000 children are now at risk in the port city due to a dramatic increase in artillery shelling.

An estimated 400,000 children are expected to suffer from severe acute malnutrition in 2018, according to the United Nations - 15,000 more than past year.

Intense fighting in the past two days has taken place in Hodeida mostly at night, as each side tried to reinforce its positions during the de-escalation in hostilities.

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UN food chief David Beasley visited Hodeidah last week and told reporters in NY on Friday the United Nations was "prepared, if necessary, if all parties desire" to take over the operational capacity of the port.

The plea comes as United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths prepares to hold talks with the rebels in the capital Sanaa during a visit aimed at laying the groundwork for peace talks in Sweden.

In September, a previous round of UN-led peace talks faltered when the Huthis refused to travel to Geneva, accusing the world body of failing to guarantee their delegation's return to Sanaa or secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.

"Our staff can hear explosions and shootings extremely close by occurring every day around Al-Salakhana hospital", said Caroline Seguin, MSF's operations manager for Yemen. On November 16, the envoy said both parties had given "firm assurances" that they are committed to attending peace talks in hope of reaching a workable framework by the end of the year.

Griffiths faces a daunting challenge to overcome deep mistrust between all sides.

It also calls for a large injection of foreign cash to support Yemen's collapsing currency and for salaries of civil servants, teachers, and health workers to be paid within a month. "The time for direct talks ... is now". "That we will have more possibilities for humanitarian organizations and for the population to start to move, to start to regain a normal life", ICRC's Batallas said.