Childhood malnutrition in Yemen has reached “the highest levels” since the start of the war ravaging the country in 2014, the UN said on Tuesday, adding that the coronavirus pandemic and the lack of funding for aid worsened the humanitarian situation.
The UN had already deplored in March 2017 that this conflict between the government and the Houthi rebels had generated in this very poor country of the Arabian Peninsula the worst humanitarian crisis currently in the world, marked in particular by famine and epidemics.
“The acute malnutrition of children is reaching the highest levels we have seen since the start of the war,” said Lise Grande, UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, quoted in a joint statement Tuesday from several UN agencies.
More than half a million cases of acute malnutrition in children under five have been recorded in the south, said the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Food Program Global (WFP) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
And the results of an ongoing investigation in the north should be “equally worrying,” they continued.
Severe malnutrition has increased by 15.5% among these young children. At least 98,000 of them are at “high risk of dying” if they do not receive urgent treatment, agencies warned.
“The escalation of conflict and economic decline, coupled with the heavy impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, have pushed an already exhausted population to the brink,” the UN summed up, adding that the programs of aid, including emergency food aid, had been halted as funding dried up.
As a result of the conflict, more than 24 million people (almost 80% of the population) depend on some form of humanitarian assistance and the situation deteriorated sharply in 2020.
But only 1.43 billion dollars (1.21 billion euros) of the 3.2 billion necessary to finance assistance programs in Yemen had been paid in mid-October, according to the UN.
The organization announced in September that essential aid had been cut in 300 health centers and that more than a third of its main humanitarian programs had been cut or completely halted.
Several donors, including Saudi Arabia, which intervenes militarily in Yemen to support the government against the Houthis, have not kept their aid promises, a UN official at the Security Council said at the time.