According to a new report from the UN, nearly 100,000 children are at risk of dying due to malnutrition in parts of Yemen controlled by the Saudi-backed government of ousted President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The UN report found acute malnutrition in children under five in southern Yemen has increased by 10 percent in 2020. The number of children suffering from life-threatening malnutrition rose by 15.5 percent to 98,000. At least a quarter-million women who are pregnant or breastfeeding require malnutrition treatment.
The increased malnutrition in Yemen was fueled this year partly by the coronavirus pandemic and aid cuts. The UN has been pleading with Western and Gulf governments to increase aid donations for Yemen, but the main factor driving the humanitarian crisis needs to be addressed.
Aisha Jumaan, the president of the Yemen Relief and Reconstruction Foundation, a charity that delivers food baskets in war-torn Yemen, told Antiwar.com that the US-backed Saudi-led siege and blockade on Yemen is the main factor driving the crisis.
“The report does not mention the blockade on Yemen as one of the factors impacting famine, although, it is the main cause as it destroyed the economy,” Jumaan said. “This is typical of UN reports, not acknowledge the negative role of the Saudi/UAE in Yemen. However, they always thank them when they donate to the Yemen relief efforts.”
Jumaan said the best way for the US and Western governments to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis is to pressure Saudi Arabia to end the blockade to “allow commercial business to heal,” which would reduce the population’s reliance on aid.
The UN report only covers areas controlled by the Hadi government, but most of Yemen’s population lives in the north, in areas controlled by the Houthis, also known as Ansar-Allah. If malnutrition is so severe in southern Yemen, it is likely much worse in the north.
“The two most impacted Governorates in Yemen with malnutrition and food insecurity are under Ansar-Allah’s control. These are Hodeidah and Hajjah,” Jumaan said. “They are heavily populated and the blockade on Yemen is more severe for the areas under Ansar-Allah’s control.”
Earlier this year, the US Agency for International Development suspended most aid for Yemenis living in northern Yemen, citing Houthi obstruction.
While the UN has not officially declared a famine in Yemen, mass starvation in the country has been ongoing for years. In 2018, Save the Children published a report that said as many as 85,000 children under the age of five died of starvation in Yemen between April 2015 and October 2018.
The mass starvation in Yemen is a direct result of the war. “Everyone says that famine in Yemen is man-made,” Jumaan told Antiwar.com. “Yet no one explicitly says that Saudi are using famine as a war tactic.”
Since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen to reinstate President Hadi in 2015, airstrikes have hit farms, fishing boats, market places, hospitals, schools, and water treatment facilities. Despite the pattern of indiscriminate bombing, the US continues to sell weapons to the Saudis. Experts agree, if the US cuts off all support for Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, the conflict would swiftly come to an end.