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Yemen: Hunger and Disease Could Kill at Lest 50,000 Children This Year, More If Aid Block Continues

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (November 15, 2017) — An estimated 130 children in Yemen die every day from extreme hunger and disease. A continuing blockade on the country’s northern ports of entry is likely to increase the death toll further, past the projected 50,000 children expected to die this year.

Almost 400,000 children will need treatment for severe acute malnutrition in Yemen this year, but aid organizations are struggling to reach them all amid chronic funding shortfalls, the largest cholera outbreak in modern history, and obstructions to supplies of food and aid.

Without urgent, unhindered access for humanitarian organizations and an increase in funding, Save the Children is warning half of these children will likely go without treatment. Save the Children estimates our food and medicine stocks will run out in the next 8 to 12 weeks, unless the blockade is lifted soon.

Based on the available evidence, if left untreated, approximately 20-30 percent of children with severe acute malnutrition will die each year.

Even before this latest blockade, based on this calculation Yemen would expect to see about 50,000 malnourished children under the age of five die from hunger or disease this year – an average of 130 a day, or one child every 10 minutes.

Access for aid workers and commercial supplies was already challenging across Yemen because of obstructions by all warring parties. Now, the decision to block access entirely to the key entry points of Sana’a Airport and the ports of Hodeidah and Saleef puts thousands more children at risk. Already soaring prices of food and fuel have spiraled in just a few days, further eroding the limited capability of humanitarian organizations to deliver lifesaving aid.

There is no viable alternative to these ports for bringing in the amount of food, medicine and other relief supplies needed in some of the areas of Yemen worst hit by the hunger crisis.

The Taiz and Hodeidah districts are facing the most serious effects of the hunger crisis, with a staggering 10,000 children predicted to die this year in each region (Table 1).

Severe acute malnutrition is the most extreme and dangerous form of undernutrition. Symptoms include jutting ribs and loose skin with visible wasting of body tissue, or swelling in the ankles, feet and belly as blood vessels leak fluid under the skin.

Malnourished children also have substantially reduced immune system function and are many times more likely to contract and die from diseases like cholera and pneumonia than healthy children.

“These deaths are as senseless as they are preventable,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director. “They mean more than a hundred mothers grieving for the death of a child, day after day.

“Save the Children currently has five shipping containers full of life-saving food for sick and malnourished children stuck in Aden because of road closures. Our staff cannot reach communities to provide life-saving care and much-needed supplies and relief workers cannot enter the country. Essential medicines, fuel and food stocks could start running out in a matter of weeks. It’s utterly unacceptable to let children die of neglect and a lack of political will.

“Without urgent action the future looks bleak. Unless the blockade is lifted immediately more children will die. War has already destroyed public services and created the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis. It is unconscionable to punish Yemen’s children by restricting access to parts of the country.”