Yemen’s starving children

Published February 15, 2021

THE six-year conflict in Yemen has led to a serious humanitarian crisis for its people, but the most unfortunate victims of the war without doubt are its innocent and vulnerable children. The findings of four United Nations agencies this week that more than 2m Yemeni children less than five years old are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition this year should be a wake-up call for all stakeholders. There are also fears that 1.2m pregnant or breastfeeding women in the country will face acute malnourishment in the months ahead, a reality that underscores that for every starving child there is an entire family at risk. The fresh alarm follows repeated warnings about a famine in Yemen and the looming deaths of children. Save the Children estimates that between 2015 and 2018 alone, around 85,000 children have died as a result of malnutrition. The new finding predicts greater suffering, economic strife and death for an already crushed population.

This is yet another heartbreaking reminder that this war — which Saudi officials in 2015 said would last a few weeks — must come to an end. If anything can prick the conscience of the warring sides, the plight of Yemeni children should be it. This war has brought the poorest Arab country to the brink of famine due to the Saudi-imposed blockade. There is some hope on the horizon with the Biden administration’s pronouncement that the war must end, but America’s role in the conflict as a key ally of the Saudi-led coalition battling the Iran-allied Houthis makes this a complicated foreign policy matter which will not be resolved overnight. Meanwhile, innocent Yemeni citizens have no say in the future of their country; they are dying either as a direct result of the conflict or due to the ensuing humanitarian crisis. All stakeholders must wake up to the plight of the Yemeni people, for it is unconscionable that they must suffer more death, disease and starvation than they have endured already in the conflict.

Published in Dawn, February 15th, 2021

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