At least 400,000 Yemeni children under five could die of starvation this year without urgent intervention amid soaring rates of severe malnutrition driven by war and the coronavirus pandemic, Reuters reported four UN agencies saying today.
The warnings come nearly six years after the outbreak of war that rendered 80 per cent of the population reliant on humanitarian aid.
In a report, the agencies projected a 22 per cent increase in severe acute malnutrition among children under five in Yemen, compared to 2020.
Severe acute malnutrition means there is a risk of death from lack of food. Aden, Hudaydah, Taiz and Sanaa are among the worst-hit areas, the report said.
"These numbers are yet another cry for help from Yemen where each malnourished child also means a family struggling to survive," World Food Program (WFP) Executive Director David Beasley said in a joint statement with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO).
Another 2.3 million under 5s are expected to suffer acute malnutrition in 2021.
Acute malnutrition among young children and mothers in Yemen has increased with each year of the conflict
they said, driven by the high rates of disease and rising rates of food insecurity.
Around 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding women are projected to be acutely malnourished this year.
Famine has never been officially declared in Yemen. The UN says the country is the world's largest humanitarian crisis.
Along with conflict, economic decline and the pandemic, a shortfall of donations last year is also contributing to the worsening humanitarian crisis.
Nutrition and other services that keep millions from starvation and disease are gradually closing across Yemen amid the acute funding shortage.
The agencies said they had only received $1.9 billion of the $3.4 billion required for the country's humanitarian response. Programmes have started to close and scale down.
Impoverished Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when the Houthis overran much of the country, including the capital, Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.
The war has killed more than 100,000 people and pushed millions to the brink of famine, according to the United Nations (UN) official data.