The UN children’s agency, UNICEF, says Saudi Arabia's devastating war in Yemen is hindering efforts to save children from acute malnutrition and deaths caused by preventable diseases.
A UNICEF spokesman in Yemen said Monday that the agency has struggled to provide treatment for over 200,000 children in the war-hit impoverished country, who are afflicted with Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) as a Saudi-led blockade imposed on the country and the shortage of finance are making it increasingly impossible for the agency to carry out its mission.
"This lifesaving work remains hindered by the shortage of funding and limited access to areas caught in the fighting,” Rajat Madhok said, adding that the UN agency has been also supplementing vitamin to millions of Yemeni children who have been grappling with malnutrition.
Estimates show that a total of 2.2 million children are suffering from malnutrition across Yemen, which is at war with militants loyal to the former Saudi-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, and has been under Saudi Arabia’s relentless airstrikes since March 2015.
UNICEF has only managed to reach to half of the children afflicted with acute malnutrition. Many others are still in life-threatening conditions and exposed to deadly diseases. The UN says at least 1,000 children die every week from preventable diseases across Yemen.
"I have already lost a cousin to malnutrition today; I can't lose my little brother,” says Mohammed Ali, a 19-year-old living with his family in northern Yemen, who is struggling to save his five-year-old brother Mohannad suffering from severe malnutrition.
Mohammad says his brother’s condition, which began with diarrhea, has been worsening for the past two years, but the family could not afford treatment.
“I can see that my brother's condition is worsening day after day ... There's nothing I can do,” he says.
In a report published in December 2016, UNICEF had warned that kids in Yemen are suffering from the highest ever recorded rates of malnutrition amid scarcity of food supplies due to Saudi Arabia’s military campaign against its southern neighbor.
“Malnutrition in Yemen is at an all-time high and increasing,” said the UNICEF envoy to Yemen, Meritxell Relano, adding, “The state of health of children in the Middle East’s poorest country has never been as catastrophic as it is today.”