UN: Yemen Could Suffer Famine in 2017

UN: Yemen Could Suffer  Famine in 2017UN: Yemen Could Suffer  Famine in 2017

The conflict-driven food crisis in Yemen could become a full-blown famine this year, the UN’s humanitarian chief has warned.

Two million people need emergency food aid to survive and child malnutrition has risen 63% in a year, Stephen O’Brien told the UN Security Council, BBC reported.

“A child under five dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes,” he said.

Severe poverty, war damage and a naval embargo by the Saudi-led coalition have all damaged food security.

About 14 million people are currently food insecure in Yemen, including 2.2 million children who are acutely malnourished and nearly 500,000 suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

O’Brien urged the Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by western countries, including the US and UK, to remove its no-fly zone and reopen Sana’a airport. The blockade is having a “disproportionate impact” on civilians, he said, by stopping life-saving medication being flown in and preventing 20,000 Yemenis accessing specialist medical treatment abroad.

Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said people were desperate and wheat supplies would last only an estimated three more months.

“Everywhere you go, you see people begging in the streets in bigger numbers, you see people rummaging through rubbish to survive,” he said.

“You hear catastrophic stories of children dying because they can’t get to health centers. People dying of malnutrition, people dying of preventable diseases.

“Humanitarians now fill in for collapsing public institutions, which at this scale is both beyond our capacity and our remit,” O’Brien said.

Yemen has been devastated by nearly two years of war between forces loyal to the government of ousted president Abd-Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, backed by Saudi Arabia, and those allied to the Houthi movement.

Previously dependent on imports for 90% of its staple food, the country has been hit hard by a naval embargo imposed by the Saudi-led coalition, fighting around the government-controlled port of Aden and airstrikes on the Houthi-held port of Hudaydah.

Half of the country’s medical facilities are no longer functioning. Some have been bombed by the Saudi-led coalition, others are short of funding.

“The situation in Yemen is desperate but overlooked by donors and the international community because it attracts less attention than Syria and Iraq,” McGoldrick said.

He added that media attention has been low, given that only UN flights can land at the airport in the capital Sana’a and Saudi Arabia does not allow journalists on those flights.

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