Millions of children in Yemen could be pushed to ‘the brink of starvation’ due to huge shortfalls in humanitarian aid funding amid the COVID-19 pandemic – according to a new UNICEF report.
Marking more than five years since a Saudi-backed invasion, the new UNICEF report warns the number of malnourished children could reach 2.4 million by end of year, almost half of all under-fives.
An additional 30,000 children could develop life-threatening severe acute malnutrition over the next six months.
The report has indicated that the number of malnourished children under the age of five in the war-torn country could rise by 20% — to 2.4 million — unless the international community makes up for a massive shortfall in aid.
“If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die,” said UNICEF Yemen representative Sara Beysolow Nyanti. “We cannot overstate the scale of this emergency.”
UNICEF reported that an additional 6,600 children under five could die from preventable causes by the end of the year. With a health system teetering closer to collapse, only half of health facilities are operational, with huge shortages in medicine, equipment and staff.
Yemen has been ravaged by a war supported by a Saudi-led coalition for over five years. During this period, tens of thousands of people have been killed and millions displaced due to the violence.
The UN has said that it is unable to keep an inflow of aid as the crisis shows no sign of ending. UNICEF needs nearly $461 million for its humanitarian response, along with $53 million for an effective COVID-19 response. Only 39% and 10% of these, respectively, have been funded.
Yemen’s healthcare system was already on the brink of collapse as it dealt with diseases like cholera, malaria and dengue, but the pandemic has just brought it dangerously close to shutting down. The country has reported over 1,000 infections but experts say that many go unreported because of lacking medical infrastructure.
The UN children’s agency also warned that nearly 7.8 million children were not in school, which puts them at a higher risk of exploitation through child labor, early marriage and recruitment into armed groups.
“UNICEF has previously said, and again repeats, that Yemen is the worst place in the world to be a child and it is not getting any better,” Nyanti said.