Yemen edg­ing nearer famine as war ru­ins econ­omy: UN

Eight out of 10 chil­dren are stunted by mal­nu­tri­tion

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

GENEVA:

Yemen’s hu­man­i­tar­ian catas­tro­phe is set to worsen as the war has ru­ined the econ­omy and is stop­ping food sup­plies get­ting through, driv­ing the coun­try to the brink of famine, the top UN aid of­fi­cial in the coun­try told Reuters.

“Through­out the whole of this coun­try kids are dy­ing,” said Jamie McGoldrick. UN Hu­man­i­tar­ian Co­or­di­na­tor in Yemen. Nearly two years of war be­tween a Saudi-led Arab coali­tion and the Iran-al­lied Houthi move­ment has left more than half of Yemen’s 28 mil­lion peo­ple “food in­se­cure”, with 7 mil­lion of them en­dur­ing hunger, ac­cord­ing to the United Na­tions.

In the lat­est set­back, Yemen’s big­gest traders have stopped new wheat im­ports due to a cri­sis at the cen­tral bank, doc­u­ments seen by Reuters show.

Al­ready, eight out of 10 chil­dren are stunted by mal­nu­tri­tion and ev­ery 10 min­utes a child dies due to pre­ventable dis­eases, UN agency fig­ures show. To scrape by, sev­eral fam­i­lies of­ten rely on one salary-earner, and child mar­riage is in­creas­ing, with girls mar­ried off at the age of 15 on av­er­age, and of­ten younger. The UN es­ti­mates that 18.8 mil­lion peo­ple need some form of hu­man­i­tar­ian aid but it strug­gles to de­liver sup­plies, partly be­cause of the war and partly due to a lack of fund­ing. The dis­rup­tion of wheat ship­ments will ex­ac­er­bate the prob­lem.

“We know that early next year we will face sig­nif­i­cant prob­lems,” said McGoldrick, who de­scribed the econ­omy as “shred­ded”. Al­most half of Yemen’s 22 gov­er­norates are al­ready of­fi­cially rated as be­ing in an emer­gency food sit­u­a­tion, he said. That is four on a five-point scale, where five is famine.

“I know there are some wor­ry­ing de­vel­op­ments and the de­te­ri­o­ra­tion we’ve seen in the econ­omy and the health ser­vices and the abil­ity to sup­ply food would only give us an es­ti­mate that things are go­ing to get much worse,” McGoldrick said.

The UN has been con­duct­ing a new food as­sess­ment in prepa­ra­tion for a new hu­man­i­tar­ian ap­peal in 2017, when it will ask donors for life-saving help for 8 mil­lion peo­ple. But a famine may still not be of­fi­cially de­clared. “Tech­ni­cally these things are eas­ily mea­sured but in re­al­ity us­ing the Fword is some­thing that very few peo­ple will use be­cause it’s so emo­tive. I would say it’s not likely to hap­pen, my per­sonal view.” —Reuters

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