Child malnutrition in Yemen rising to highest levels: UN

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Parts of Yemen are seeing their highest levels of acute malnutrition in children, heightening warnings that the country is approaching a dire food security crisis, a UN report said on Tuesday.

Drivers of malnutrition in Yemen worsened in 2020, as the coronavirus pandemic, economic decline, floods, escalating conflict and significant underfunding of this year’s aid response have compounded an already bleak hunger situation after almost six years of conflict.

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“We’ve been warning since July that Yemen is on the brink of a catastrophic food security crisis. If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” said Lise Grande, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

According to a UN Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) malnutrition analysis of south Yemen, acute malnutrition cases in children under five have increased about 10 percent in 2020, to more than half a million.

Cases of children with severe acute malnutrition rose 15.5 percent, and at least a quarter-million pregnant or breastfeeding women also need malnutrition treatment.

Women and children fill buckets with water from a public tap amid an acute shortage of water, on the outskirts of Sanaa. (File photo: AP)
Women and children fill buckets with water from a public tap amid an acute shortage of water, on the outskirts of Sanaa. (File photo: AP)

About 1.4 million children under 5 live in south Yemen, which is under the control of the internationally recognized government of Yemen. IPC data for north Yemen, where most

Yemenis live and which is controlled by Iran-backed Houthi militia, is not yet available.

Famine has never been officially declared in Yemen. The UN says the country is the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 80 percent of the population reliant on humanitarian aid.

Nutrition and other services that keep millions from starvation and disease are gradually closing across Yemen amid an acute funding shortage this year.

The UN says it had by mid-October received only $1.43 billion of the $3.2 billion needed for the entire 2020 Yemen humanitarian response. Programs have started to close and scale down.

The organisation said it needs $50 million urgently to boost nutrition programs.

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