Severe food crisis hits Yemen: children malnourished, on the brink of starvation

Almost 100,000 children under five are on the brink of starvation. The increasing number of children going hungry is a clear indication of the deteriorating food situation in the country.

Photo credit: Save the Children

War, rising food prices, a health system overwhelmed by COVID-19, and funding challenges are deeply impacting access to food for children all across Yemen, pushing up the number of children who are on the brink of hunger or even starvation, Save the Children has warned.

Following a new UN report on malnutrition in the south of the country, the organization is deeply concerned for the children in the north as well. In some clinics where Save the Children works, the number of malnourished children who came for lifesaving treatment rose by 60 percent between the end of last year and July 2020.

“The recent numbers released on southern Yemen should serve as a loud alarm bell. More children are likely to die across the country if the crisis is not taken on quickly. The deadly combination of war and hunger is pushing thousands of children closer to starvation every day,” said Xavier Joubert, Save the Children’s country director for Yemen.

“Children in Yemen have become collateral damage in a war that has raged for more than five years.”

“Children in Yemen have become collateral damage in a war that has raged for more than five years. It is horrific to think that, in just half the country, almost 100,000 children under five are on the brink of starvation—malnourished to the point their lives are on the line. And numbers may be even higher across the whole country,” Joubert added.

In clinics in Hodeidah, the monthly average admissions of children suffering from severe or moderate acute malnutrition rose by 60 percent between March and July 2020, compared to the previous five months. Voluntary health workers identified a five percent rise of acutely malnourished children across communities they visited.

Save the Children said that the increasing number of children going hungry is a clear indication of the deteriorating food situation in the country. Yemenis are less able to afford food because of soaring prices. The cost of a food basket2,3 in northern areas has gone up by 2,400 YER ($4 USD) since January, while families were already struggling to hold their heads above water. In the south, the minimum cost for a food basket has risen by YER 6,331 ($7.70 USD), which is 15 percent more than what it was in the 2018 crisis.

So far this year, Save the Children has provided 8,783 people, including 2,975 children, with food through household food baskets or cash transfers. The charity also supports pregnant and lactating women and offers breastfeeding and nutrition advice.

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But shortages in funding have created a gap in lifesaving programs, meaning fewer children and families are receiving food assistance. This has increased the struggle children in Yemen are facing.