UNICEF: Yemeni children likely to starve amid pandemic

by Muizat Hameed

The United Nations children’s agency has warned that millions of Yemeni children could be pushed to the brink of starvation as the coronavirus pandemic sweeps across the war-torn Yemen amid a “huge” drop in humanitarian aid funding.

This prediction, which stated that the number of malnourished children in Yemen could reach 2.4 million by the end of the year, comes in a new UNICEF report tagged, “Yemen five years on: Children, conflict and COVID-19.”

“As Yemen’s devastated health system and infrastructure struggle to cope with coronavirus, the already dire situation for children is likely to deteriorate considerably,” warned UNICEF.

Yemen’s poor health care infrastructure is unprepared to battle the coronavirus pandemic after five years of war between a Saudi-led military coalition and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The war, which has mostly stalemated, has also triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The situation in Yemen is only expected to get worse as donor countries recently cut back on aid. Yemen has officially recorded more than 1,000 cases of COVID-19, the illness caused by the coronavirus, including 275 deaths.

However, the actual tally is believed to be much higher as testing capabilities are severely limited.

“If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die,” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF’s representative to Yemen.

She added that “The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children … simply do not matter.”

UNICEF also warned that unless $54.5 million are disbursed for health and nutrition aid by the end of August, more than 23,000 children will be at increased risk of dying because of acute malnutrition.

It also said that 5 million others under the age of 5 will not have access to vaccines against deadly diseases.

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