An international aid group says an estimated 130 children or more die on a regular basis in war-torn Yemen from extreme starvation and sickness. On Wednesday, Save the Children said that an ongoing blockade by the Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Shiite rebels is expected to further upsurge the death rate. It added that more than 50,000 children are expected to have died in 2017.
Earlier in November, Saudi Arabia blocked Yemen’s ports following a rebel missile attack near Riyadh. It also added on Monday that the alliance would lift the blockade after extensive international criticism. The leaders of the World Health Organization, the UN children’s agency, and the World Food Program issued a joint appeal for the easing of the blockade on Thursday. “While the Saudi-led military coalition has partially lifted the recent blockade of Yemen, closure of much of the country’s air, sea and land ports are making an already catastrophic situation far worse. The space and access we need to deliver humanitarian assistance are being choked off, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families,” they said.
In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition went to war against the rebels (known as Houthis) on behalf of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. Yet the coalition has made little growth, and the rebels still control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. That war has killed more than 10,000 people and dislocated 3 million. Commenting on the status of Yemen, it was the Arab world’s poorest country even before the clash started. More than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent backing with 7 million wholly dependent on food help, the UN officials said. They have also described it as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world”.
The officials said that “Even with a partial lifting of the blockade, the World Food Program estimates that an additional 3.2 million people will be pushed into hunger. If left untreated, 150,000 malnourished children could die within the coming months”. Later on Thursday, the UN spokesperson said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written a letter to Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador, saying that the kingdom’s failure to reopen main airports and seaports in Yemen is already reversing humanitarian efforts to handle the crisis in the impoverished country.