Yemen: 600 New Cases of Starving Children Every Day

Famine fears grow amid continued blockade

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (November 24, 2017) – Yemen is seeing an estimated 20,000 new cases of severely malnourished children under-5 every month, an average of 27 children every hour. These numbers are likely to rise significantly despite the reported opening of access to humanitarian supplies, as a continued restriction on commercial and humanitarian imports pushes prices of basic goods beyond the reach of ordinary families, warns Save the Children.

A total blockade imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led Coalition on Yemen’s northern ports of entry over the past few weeks has pushed the country even further into crisis. Dozens of humanitarian shipments and aid flights carrying life-saving supplies were turned back. The Coalition has announced it will open access for humanitarian relief but commercial supplies to the main port of Hodeidah – which handles around 80 percent of the Yemen’s imports – remain blocked.

A continued commercial blockade on Hodeidah is aggravating the already devastating food crisis, leading to a significant increase in child deaths from acute malnutrition and preventable diseases. The prices of basic goods like milk, sugar and petrol have risen sharply forcing many parents to make impossible choices like whether to buy medicine for a sick child or food for a hungry one.

Abdu Saleh, father to 10-month-old Qais*, said:
“Sometimes my son is breastfed by his mother and sometimes we have to give him formula because his mother doesn’t have any milk. I cannot provide her with enough nutrition to breastfeed the baby. The blockade is affecting all citizens, no food has entered the country, no medicine…now half the people are dying because of it."

The cut in supplies, whether humanitarian aid or commercial goods, means a widespread famine is possible within 3-4 months. Already, seven million people are struggling to get even one meal a day.

In addition, Yemen needs an estimated 1.2 million gallons of diesel a month just to operate its public water systems. At least seven cities have reported running out of clean water and some health facilities warn a lack of running water and fuel for generators will force them to close their doors. Without access to clean water we expect to see a spike in diseases like cholera and diphtheria, with malnourished children the most vulnerable. The blockaded Hodeidah port can handle 40 million gallons of fuel a month – Aden can only handle a third of that – 13 million gallons.

Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director, Save the Children, said:
“Yemeni children, it seems, are being intentionally starved and deprived of life-saving medicines and vaccines. We see the impact of this every day, when desperate parents bring their acutely malnourished children in for treatment because they can’t feed them. Unfortunately, too many young children don’t get help in time and lose their lives. This is an entirely preventable and man-made tragedy. As long as a blockade on commercial imports remains, Yemeni children will continue to suffer."

“All sides in this conflict have impeded aid access. Over the last few weeks the Saudi-led coalition has prevented more than two dozen ships carrying 500,000 tons of food and fuel from docking at Hodeidah port."

“The fuel shortages have meant that the price of clean drinking water has quadrupled in some areas while the cost of other staples like sugar and wheat have risen sharply as well. The choke-hold on Yemen now means millions of people are at a greater risk of famine and disease. We urgently need to see full access for both humanitarian and commercial supplies opened to all ports of entry in Yemen."

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