The ongoing Yemeni civil war has pushed the country closer to collapse and to the brink of famine. New figures released by children’s charity UNICEF show that more than 462,000 children there are coping with severe acute malnutrition and are at risk of starvation — a staggering 200 percent increase since 2014 — and 2.2. million children require urgent care.
“Malnutrition in Yemen is at an all-time high and increasing,” said Dr. Meritxell Relano, a UNICEF representative in Yemen. “The state of health of children in the Middle East’s poorest country has never been as catastrophic as it is today.”
A child dies in the country every 10 minutes as a result of malnutrition and associated conditions like diarrhea and infections, the international organization said.
The latest figures point to an increasingly dire humanitarian situation in Yemen. The United Nations reported in July that nearly half of the country’s population is “food insecure,” with at least 7 million facing emergency levels of food insecurity.
The country’s conflict escalated to an international proxy war in March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition (with U.S. support) joined in President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s fight against Iran-backed Houthi-rebels loyal to exiled former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Yemen was already deeply impoverished and vulnerable to food crises before then — relying on 90 percent of its food to come from abroad. But increased blockades and deadly airstrikes have made getting supplies into the country nearly impossible. The conditions have only been made worse by frequent Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on roads and bridges where aid would normally be transported.
Damaged infrastructure and limited operations at the country’s major ports have resulted in long delays and higher prices for critical food and fuel import shipments – a 53-day delay on average in October — placing further strain on an already severe situation.
The Disasters Emergency Committee, representing 13 UK charities, announced a fundraising drive Tuesday to provide life-saving aid, food, and medical supplies to a country that is at its “breaking point,” The Independent reported.
More than 10,000 people have been killed since the war escalated in March 2015 and another 3 million displaced, according to U.N. figures released in late August.
The U.S. government cancelled the sale of some arms to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday amid concerns of mounting civilian casualties and ongoing allegations of war crimes committed by Saudi-led coalition forces.