As many as 85,000 children in Yemen may have starved to death in the past three years during its brutal war, an aid group reported on Wednesday.
Using data compiled by the United Nations, Save the Children evaluated mortality rates for untreated cases of severe malnutrition in children under five years old.
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The humanitarian agency found some 84,701 children may have starved to death between April 2015 and October 2018 because of a lack of food.
“We are horrified that some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died because of extreme hunger since the war began,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s director in Yemen, in a statement.
“Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop … Parents are having to witness their children wasting away, unable to do anything about it.”
Since the Saudi-Emirati military intervention in March 2015 in Yemen, commercial imports of food through the vital Hodeidah port have been reduced by more than 55,000 tonnes a month, enough to meet the needs of 4.4 million people, including 2.2 million children, the group said.
The World Food Programme says up to 14 million Yemenis are now at risk of starvation as fighting rages in Hodeidah.
“Any further decline in imports could likely lead directly to famine,” it warned.
The report comes as fighting continues for control of Hodeidah between Houthi rebels and Saudi-Emirati backed forces loyal to Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The World Health Organization says nearly 10,000 people – mostly civilians – have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi-Emirati intervention in March 2015, but rights groups believe the death toll may be five times higher.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced they would each give $250m in aid to the war-ravaged country to support more than 10 million people.
In Hodeidah, fighting was also under way on Tuesday in the main Khamsin Street in the city centre and in al-Saleh district, officials and witnesses said.
Rebel-run Al Masirah TV said the rebels attacked government forces on a main road linking the capital, Sanaa, and Hodeidah. Government forces captured the road in September.
UN envoy Martin Griffiths is expected to meet Houthi officials in Sanaa on Wednesday.
Both sides have in the past week expressed support for the envoy and his mission to hold talks in Sweden, but that was thrown in jeopardy after fierce clashes flared in Hodeidah late on Tuesday.
Just hours before Griffiths’ planned visit, residents in the east of Hodeidah told AFP news agency by telephone they could hear fighting, and reported shrapnel falling in residential neighbourhoods.
Multiple past attempts to hold negotiations between the government alliance and Houthis have failed.
Griffiths said Monday he hoped the rivals would meet in Sweden “within the next few weeks”. No date has been set.