Wednesday 18 September 2019

Yemeni children die as warring factions block vital aid at port

A malnourished boy at a treatment centre in Sanaa, Yemen. Photo: Reuters
A malnourished boy at a treatment centre in Sanaa, Yemen. Photo: Reuters

Stephanie Nebehay

Yemeni children are dying from starvation and disease as trucks with life-saving supplies are blocked in port, leaving medical staff and desperate mothers imploring aid workers to do more, a senior United Nations official said.

Geert Cappelaere, Middle East director for the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), described "heart-breaking" scenes of emaciated children in hospitals in the port city of Hodeidah and capital Sanaa, both held by Houthi rebels.

"We have evidence that today in Yemen every 10 minutes a child under the age of five is dying from preventable diseases and severe acute malnutrition," he said.

The UN says about 14 million people, or half Yemen's population, could soon be on the brink of famine in a man-made disaster. Already 1.8 million children are malnourished, more than 400,000 of them suffering from severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition that leaves them skeletal with muscle wasting, Mr Cappelaere said.

"But there is more. Many children are dying from vaccine-preventable diseases. Today not more than 40pc of the children throughout Yemen are being vaccinated."

Measles, cholera and diphtheria can be deadly for children, especially those under five, and are exacerbated by malnutrition.

"Because of this brutal war, because of obstacles, obstructions being made, it is unfortunately not possible to do much more," Mr Cappelaere said.

"We may not yet be at the level of a famine but we should not wait until we have declared a famine to step up and to pressure the parties to the conflict to stop this senseless war," he said.

Seven trucks carrying medical equipment and medicines had been blocked at Hodeidah port for two weeks awaiting clearance, Mr Cappelaere said.

"It was heart-breaking that an hour before I was sitting at al-Thwara hospital, and I have all the doctors, all the medical staff pleading with me to get more medical supplies."

Irish Independent

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