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five million children at risk of starvation in Yemen

More than five million children are at risk of starvation in Yemen, Save the Children reported on Wednesday as conflict escalates and food and fuel prices soar.

In a report, the UK-based Save the Children warned of “unprecedented famine” in a country with the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, according to the UN.

The Yemeni government, backed by Saudi Arabia, is fighting Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, in a war that has already claimed the lives of 2,200 children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Save the Children has estimated that an additional million children are at risk of starvation as food and transportation costs rise, bringing the total number of children threatened by famine to 5.2 million in this poor country of the Arabian Peninsula.

Race against time

The resumption on Monday of an offensive by pro-government forces on the strategic port of Hodeida , the main entry point for imports and international aid, jeopardizes access to humanitarian aid and already has an economic impact on civilians, note experts.

“Time is running out” to prevent “a devastating famine” in Yemen and “we can not allow the slightest disruption” in distributing aid to “innocent victims of conflict”, said Wednesday the World Food Program (WFP) ) in a statement.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), food prices have risen 68 percent since 2015, when a Saudi-sponsored coalition went to war with the government to fight the Houthis. who control vast territories, including the capital Sanaa and the port of Hodeida.

Famine as a weapon of war

According to OCHA, the cost of a basic food basket has increased by 35%, while prices for gasoline, diesel and cooking fuel have increased by more than 25% since November 2017.

By October 2017, WFP had warned that beyond fighting and air raids, food was now “a weapon of war” in Yemen.

The interruption of the population’s food supply through the port of Hodeida on the Red Sea “would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of children in immediate danger, while pushing millions more towards famine. Said Save the Children.

Millions of children do not know when their next meal will come, or even if it will come.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Executive Director of Save the Children

Deadly clashes resumed around the port city after failed talks earlier this month in Geneva.

Millions of children on the front line

The United Nations has warned that any major fighting in the city of Hodeida could put an end to food distributions to 8 million Yemenis who depend on it for their survival.

Of 20 children under five, at least one suffers from severe acute malnutrition in Hodeida, according to Unicef. More than 11 million children, 80 percent of the country’s children, “have a desperate need for humanitarian assistance,” according to the same source.

Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse the rebels of smuggling weapons from Iran by Hodeida and have imposed an almost total blockade on the port. The Houthis and Iran deny these accusations.

In a hospital I visited in northern Yemen, babies were too weak to cry, their bodies exhausted by hunger.

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Executive Director of Save the Children

Three years of war

Since March 2015, some 10,000 people have been killed, the majority of them civilians, and more than 56,000 injured in the conflict. According to the UN, three out of four Yemenis today need help, especially food, and the country is threatened by a third wave of cholera.

In a report published on 4 September, the Norwegian Refugee Council pointed out that the balance sheets did not take into account the economic consequences of the war.

“This economic collapse has the potential to kill many more Yemenis than violence,” wrote Mohamed Abdi, Yemen’s director of the NGO.

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