The United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, has warned that the shortage of humanitarian assistance amid the coronavirus pandemic threatens to push more children in Yemen to the brink of starvation.
The UNICEF reported on Friday that the number of malnourished children in Yemen could increase to 2.4 million by the end of the year, which would be equivalent to nearly half of all Yemeni children under the age of five.
The UNICEF report “Yemen five years on: Children, conflict and COVID-19” added that as the country’s “devastated health system and infrastructure overall struggles to cope with the coronavirus pandemic, the already dire situation for children is likely to deteriorate considerably.”
“ If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die,” UNICEF Yemen representative Sara Beysolow Nyanti said. “We cannot overstate the scale of this emergency.”
Yemen was turned into the scene of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis after Saudi Arabia and a number of its allies launched a war against the country about five years ago.
The ongoing war was meant to subdue a popular uprising that had toppled a Riyadh-friendly regime. While the Saudi-led coalition has failed to achieve that objective, it has been continuing often blind operations that kill and maim civilians, including children.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, estimates that the war has claimed more than 100,000 lives over the past five years.
More than half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics have been destroyed or closed as a result of the war by the Saudi-led coalition, which is supported militarily by the UK, the US, and other Western countries.
The UNICEF report also said that nearly 7.8 million children were without access to education, adding that could put them “at risk of child labor, recruitment into armed groups and child marriage.”
“ 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.
UNICEF has received only 39% of its 461-million-dollar appeal for its humanitarian response to Yemen, and only 10% of its 53-million-dollar appeal for its COVID-19 response in the country has been funded.
Yemen has recorded more than 1,000 coronavirus cases, but the figure is believed to be much higher and the country’s shattered health system is unprepared to battle the pandemic.