Stalemated war in Yemen is likely to claim the lives of more than 50,000 children by the end of the year as disease and starvation run rampant across the country, Save the Children Fund has warned.
According to estimates by humanitarian organisations, around 130 children are dying each day as the Arab world’s poorest country struggles with famine and the ‘largest cholera outbreak’ in modern history.
Aid groups say that the war has already killed 40,000 Yemeni children suffering from severe acute malnutrition this year, and the figure will likely cross the 50,000 marks before the year ends.
“These deaths are as senseless as they are preventable. They mean more than a hundred mothers grieving for the death of a child, day after day,” said Tamer Kirolos, the group’s Yemen director.
The calculations by the charity were made before the Saudi-led coalition imposed a more severe blockade in contested parts of the country. The move came in response to an attempted missile strike on Riyadh airport which was blamed on rebels from Yemen.
The blockade has closed key entry points for humanitarian food, aid and medicine, like the port of Hodeidah, and the airport in capital Sanaa.
Mr Kirolos warned that “unless the blockade is lifted immediately more children will die”.
Malnourished children have filled hospitals in the country due to the food shortage caused by the crisis. These children have loose skin because of extreme hunger, and often have ribs jutting out.
Malnourished children are also especially vulnerable to death as a result of cholera and other diarrhoeal diseases.
Dr Najla al-Sonboli, the head of pediatrics at Sanaa’s Sabeen hospital, says that she and her staff were seeing a new outbreak of diptheria, a deadly bacterial infection that builds in the back of a child’s throat.
Diptheria is highly contagious and Dr al-Sonboli has tried to keep the infected children in isolation. But one boy arrived needing a mechanical ventilator to breathe and the only one working was in a care ward where other children were staying.
“We had a choice: either let this child die or put her in the ward and risk infecting the other children. I took my decision to save the child, I couldn’t let him die in front of me.”
Despite the staff’s efforts, the boy died soon after.
The tightening of the Saudi blockade on November 6 has sent food prices skyrocketing and caused severe petrol shortages, making it more difficult to get food to hungry people.
Many areas of the rebel-held north of Yemen are entirely without electricity as power stations were forced to close because of a lack of petrol.
Around 385,000 children are estimated to be suffering from severe acute malnutrition in Yemen and aid agencies believe that only around half of those are receiving treatment.
Both the UK and the US are supporting the Saudi-led military coalition as it bombs and blockades Yemen in support of the country’s internationally recognised government and against Houthi rebel forces.
This article originally appeared in The Telegraph