50,000 children in Yemen have died of starvation and disease so far this year, monitoring group says
Yemeni women sit near their malnourished children who are receiving treatment in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, on Nov. 15, 2017. More than 50,000 children under the age of 15 are at risk of death from acute malnutrition by the end of 2017 after more than two years of escalating conflict between Saudi-backed forces and the Houthi rebels. (EPA)
CAIRO — An international aid group says an estimated 130 children or more die every day in war-torn Yemen from extreme hunger and disease.
Save the Children said late Wednesday that a continuing blockade by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Shiite rebels is likely to further increase the death rate. It says over 50,000 children are believed to have died in 2017.
Saudi Arabia blocked Yemen's ports after a rebel missile attack near Riyadh. It said Monday the coalition would lift the blockade after widespread international criticism.
On Thursday, the leaders of the World Health Organization, the U.N. children's agency and the World Food Program issued a joint appeal for the easing of the blockade.
"While the Saudi-led military coalition has partially lifted the recent blockade of Yemen, closure of much of the country's air, sea and land ports is making an already catastrophic situation far worse," they said.
"The space and access we need to deliver humanitarian assistance is being choked off, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families."
The Saudi-led coalition went to war against the rebels, known as Houthis, in March 2015 on behalf of Yemen's internationally recognized government. But the coalition has made little progress, and the rebels still control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.
The war has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced 3 million. Yemen was the Arab world's poorest country even before the conflict began.
The U.N. officials said more than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent assistance, with 7 million totally dependent on food assistance. The U.N. has called it the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world."
"Even with a partial lifting of the blockade, the World Food Programme estimates that an additional 3.2 million people will be pushed into hunger. If left untreated, 150,000 malnourished children could die within the coming months," the officials said.
A starved Yemeni child receives treatment amid a worsening malnutrition crisis in the emergency ward of a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, on Nov. 15, 2017. (EPA)