For every child killed by Yemen's war, 'dozens are starving to death'

For every child killed by Yemen's war, 'dozens are starving to death'

Kerry Wise
November 23, 2018

An estimated 85,000 children under five may have died from extreme hunger in Yemen since a Saudi-led coalition intervened in the civil war in 2015, an aid agency said on Wednesday, as the United Nations special envoy arrived in Yemen to pursue peace talks.

"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.

The UN special envoy to Yemen is expected to arrive in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah as part of his renewed push for peace, as sporadic fighting continued in the strategic port city.

The conflict of almost four years between a coalition led by Saudi Arabia and Houthi rebels backed by Iran has killed around 57,000 people, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, a crisis mapping project.

The renewed violence follows progress toward ending Yemen's war of almost four years, a conflict that has killed at least 10,000 people and has pushed the nation to the brink of the world's worst famine in 100 years, leaving 14 million people at risk of starvation, according to the United Nations.

85,000 of those children were reportedly under the age five, leaving some officials to believe Yemen is on the brink of starvation.

Last week, Griffith said that Yemen's parties had given "firm assurances" they are committed to attending peace talks to agree on a framework for peace under a transitional government.

The Houthis didn't show up to peace talks in Switzerland in September, leading to the collapse of that effort to end the fighting.

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United Nations agencies say up to 14 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation if the port of Hodeida is closed by fighting or damage.

Just hours before Griffiths' arrival in Sanaa, residents in the east of Hodeida told AFP by telephone they could hear fighting, and reported shrapnel falling in residential neighbourhoods.

Aid groups have warned against an all-out assault on the city, an entry point for more than 80 percent of Yemen's food imports and humanitarian aid.

Multiple past attempts to hold negotiations between the government alliance and Houthis have failed. Aid workers in Yemen say many go unreported because only half of the country's health facilities are functioning and many people are too poor to access the ones that remain open. No date has been set.

The conflict escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign in Yemen aimed at rolling back Houthi gains.

The Huthis seized Sanaa in late 2014, when they also took control of Hodeida and its port.

Save the Children blamed the widespread starvation on a Saudi-led blockade that was tightened a year ago after the Iran-aligned rebels fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh.