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Yemen: 85,000 children may have died from starvation since the start the of war

Urgent need to reach hundreds of thousands of severely malnourished children before it’s too late, warns Save the Children.

21 November 2018

An estimated 85,000 children under five may have died from extreme hunger or disease since the war in Yemen escalated, according to new analysis by Save the Children.

Using data compiled by the UN, Save the Children evaluated mortality rates for untreated cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in children under five years. Using a conservative estimate, the humanitarian aid agency discovered that approximately 84,701 children with SAM may have died between April 2015 and October 2018.1

After almost four years since the brutal conflict in Yemen escalated the UN says that up to 14 million people are at risk of famine. That number has increased dramatically since the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition imposed a month-long blockade of Yemen just over a year ago.2

Since then, commercial imports of food through Hodeidah port have reduced by more than 55,000 metric tonnes a month. That’s enough to meet the needs of 4.4 million people, including 2.2 million children.3 Any further decline in imports could likely lead directly to famine.4

Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen, said: “We are horrified that some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died because of extreme hunger since the war began. For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable​." 5

“Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop. Their immune systems are so weak they are more prone to infections with some too frail to even cry. Parents are having to witness their children wasting away, unable to do anything about it."
“Save the Children has provided food for 140,000 children and treated more than 78,000 children for malnutrition since the start of the crisis. Despite the challenges, we’re saving lives every day.”

Fighting, blockades and bureaucracy have forced Save the Children to bring vital supplies for the north of the country through the southern port of Aden. As a result, it can take up to three weeks for aid to reach people instead of the week it would take if Hodeidah port was fully operational.

Save the Children has also observed a dramatic increase in airstrikes on Hodeidah over recent weeks. Increased fighting has also been reported in Taiz, Saada and Sanaa. 

Tamer Kirolos added: “In the past few weeks there have been hundreds of airstrikes in and around Hodeidah, endangering the lives of an estimated 150,000 children still trapped in the city. Save the Children is calling for an immediate end to the fighting so no more lives are lost.
“We urgently need to get high-nutrient foods to the most vulnerable children in Yemen, some of whom are truly on the brink. Just under $90 AUD can feed a family of seven for a whole month. One child dying from starvation is one child too many.”

Donate to Save the Children’s Yemen response here.

For interviews, call Jess Brennan on 0421 334 918.

1. Based on an analysis of UNICEF/Nutrition Cluster data malnutrition estimates between 2015 and 2018, 1,314,679 children under the age of five in Yemen needed treatment for Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) between April 2015 and October 2018 (43 months). The estimate of 85,000 deaths represents the mid-point of an estimate range for mortality in cases of untreated SAM, based on four historical studies looking at the links between severe malnutrition and death and an average Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of severely malnourished children in Yemen. The lowest level is 60,115 deaths, assuming a MUAC of 110mm. That rises to 109,288 when MUAC is assumed to be 106mm. The mid-point is 84,701 deaths from SAM between April 2015 and October 2018. 

2. According to the WFP Yemen Country Brief, 6.8 million people were severely food insecure in September 2017.

3According to UNOCHA Yemen requires 350,000 MT of commercial food imports each month. On average, monthly food imports have been 55,808 MT lower since the blockade than before it was imposed. 55,808 is 16% of 350,000. The reduction in imports would therefore be enough to meet the needs of 16% of the population. World Bank data shows Yemen’s population as 27.58 million (2016). 16% is 4.4 million people. Based on the credible assumption that approximately half of Yemen’s population is under 18, 2.2 million of these people would be children.

4. Famine Early Warning System: Yemen Food Security Alert: October 24, 2018.

5. The latest UN verified figure for children killed directly by air strikes and fighting is 2,200.




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