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More Than 800 Women and Children Have Died in Yemen, and No One Has Food

Away from the world's attention, the Arab world's poorest country is falling deeper into war, brutality and famine.
Una distribuzione di cibo a Sana’a, il 9 novembre scorso (foto di Yahya Arab/EPA)

Yemen's humanitarian and human rights catastrophe continues to worsen, according to new UN figures which put the number of killed since late March at more than 5,700.

Speaking to reporters in Cairo by videoconference, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen Johannes Van Der Klauww said that 830 of the dead were women and children. UN officials had earlier put the total number of civilians killed at more than 2,600.


As the death toll in the conflict pitting Saudi-led coalition forces against Shia Houthi rebels and their allies continues to rise, humanitarian conditions have only grown more dire, said the coordinator. 21.2 million people in the country – 82 percent of its entire population – are in need of some sort of humanitarian assistance.

"We currently estimate that over 14 million people lack sufficient access to healthcare," said Van Der Klauww. "3 million children and pregnant or lactating women require malnutrition treatment or preventative services and 1.8 million children have been out of school since mid-March."

320,000 children, he added, were acutely malnourished.

The UN's special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, has announced that peace talks will take place in the coming weeks, but observers of Yemeni affairs regard the talks with skepticism. Meanwhile, fighting continues to rage, with neither side able to make a decisive breakthrough.

In recent months, coalition forces have been augmented by hundreds of Sudanese soldiers. Though it remains unclear if the Sudanese troops are currently fighting, human rights groups have raised concern about their presence in light of genocide charges leveled against Sudanese president Omar al Bashir by the International Criminal Court.

Since the start of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on March 26, the UN has verified a staggering 8,875 reports of human rights violations. Both the Houthis and the Arab coalition have been accused of committing war crimes. In September, Gulf states led by Saudi Arabia blocked efforts at the UN Human Rights Council to create an independent inquiry into crimes committed in Yemen.


On Wednesday, Human Rights Watch accused the rebels of employing indiscriminate anti-personnel mines, in violation of international treaties.

But the UN and human rights groups say it is airstrikes carried out by the Saudi coalition, which has advanced "smart" weaponry, that have killed the majority of civilians since March. Just this week, the US State Department approved a $1.29 billion weapon-supply deal for Saudi Arabia that includes the type of bombs found at the site of civilian attacks.

Prior to the start of hostilities in Yemen, the country was already the Arab's world's poorest. Most of Yemen's food and basic goods must be imported from abroad, a necessity that has led to critical shortages of both food and now medical supplies. In addition to the danger posed to companies attempting to import supplies, a Saudi blockade of the country has severely diminished the flow of goods to a trickle in many parts of Yemen. When they are available, prices for both food and fuel have skyrocketed. In turn, the pumping and transport of water, which requires fuel, has been severely curtailed.

Humanitarian organizations including Doctors Without Borders have also accused the Houthis of blocking aid once it has arrived in the country. Last month, the group said rebel fighters had prevented the transport of basic medical supplies into the hotly contested city of Taiz.

"In this conflict, we have seen an almost complete disregard for human life, with indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure," said Van Der Klauww.