As Yemen enters a fifth year of fighting, two humanitarian organizations have issued pleas for urgently needed food and funding and for world leaders to act to end the suffering.
The UN describes Yemen as the "worst humanitarian crisis in the world", with millions of Yemenis facing imminent famine as well as battling cholera and diphtheria outbreaks. Extreme hunger/starvation is commonplace; water is scarce; basic/essential services are non-existent. Both organizations point directly to the effect of the war specifically on the livelihoods of children are growing up without adequate nutrition and formal schooling.
Fighting between the Saudi-led Arab coalition backed by the US and UK, and Iranian-backed Houthi rebels has killed more than 10,000 people and caused over 40,000 casualties in Yemen since March 2015. Water networks, power plants, airports, bridges, roads, schools and health facilities have all been destroyed in the fighting.
Islamic Relief’s head of mission in Yemen, Muhammad Zulqarnain Abbas said in a new appeal, “as the conflict has lurched on and on, it has trapped families in an impossible situation of having to choose between feeding themselves or their children.”
Some 80 Percent of the population have been affected by the war, with no end to the damage to schools, factories, hospitals and farms. One displaced grandmother of eight reported to Islamic Relief that “the children sleep in the hall, and instead of going to school they try to earn money to pay rent and buy food.”
Islamic Relief is calling for a total ceasefire and peace talks in addition to funds to supplement its own contribution of $7.6 Million USD.
At the same time, Save the Children, reported an alarming spike in suspected cholera cases, with at least 1,000 children under the age of 15 being infected daily. The aid organization also called for urgent peaceful resolution to the conflict.
Heavy rains are expected in the coming weeks and the aid organization is anticipating a fast spread of the outbreak. Since January this year, there have been 124,493 suspected cases of cholera nationwide, about half occurring in the last month.
The cholera outbreak is attributed to the lack of adequate sanitation and water contamination, exacerbated by the high and increasing rate of malnutrition, especially in children. Malnourished children have substantially reduced immune systems and are at least three times more likely to die if they contract cholera. Diarrheal diseases like cholera are also themselves a major cause of malnutrition.
Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director, said, “Yemen’s sewage system, which was already lacking before the conflict, is now almost non-existent. There’s an increasing number of people forced to camp out in unsanitary conditions simply to escape the fighting.
“All parties to this conflict, and those supporting them, must take the only responsible action which is to urgently reach a peaceful resolution. Yemen’s children cannot be made to wait while war and deadly disease rage around them.”