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Over 2 million Yemeni children under 5 could die of starvation in 2021: UN

DUBAI: Four United Nations agencies in a joint report, have said more than two million Yemeni children under the age of five are expected to endure acute malnutrition in 2021.

According to the joint report prepared by the Food, Agriculture Organisations, Unicef and the World Health Organisation (WHO), around 1.2 million pregnant or breastfeeding women in Yemen are also projected to be acutely malnourished in 2021.

Almost one in six of those children — 400,000 of the 2.3 million — are at risk of death due to severe acute malnutrition this year, the UN warned, adding a major increase from last year’s estimates.

A lack of funds was hampering humanitarian programs in Yemen, as donor nations have failed to make good on their commitments, the UN agencies said in the report.

Executive Director of the World Food Programme, David Beasley said, “These numbers are yet another cry for assistance from Yemen, where each malnourished child also means a family struggling to survive”.

Beasley further explained that the crisis in Yemen is a toxic mix of conflict, economic collapse and a severe shortage of funding. In 2020, humanitarian programmes in Yemen received only $1.9 billion of the required $3.4bn, the report highlighted.

More than 110,000 people are estimated to have been killed during the war, which broke out in 2014. The clash, which has left millions of Yemenis on the brink of starvation, initially involved the Yemeni government losing ground to an uprising by Iran-backed Houthi rebels.

Last week, United States President Joe Biden had announced to stop US support for Saudi-led military offensive operations in Yemen.

According to media reports, in his first visit to State Department, Biden tapped Tim Lenderking, deputy assistant secretary of State for Iran, Iraq, and regional multilateral affairs, to oversee the U.S. diplomatic mission to end the war in Yemen.

The US president said that the war had created a humanitarian and strategic crisis and this war has to stop. Though, Biden said: “Saudi Arabia faces missile attacks, UAV (drone) strikes and other threats from Iranian-supplied forces in multiple countries. We’re going to keep on to support Saudi Arabia defend its sovereignty and its territorial integrity and its people,” he added.

Biden further said, “I have asked my Middle East team to make sure  our help for the United Nations’ initiative to enforce a ceasefire, open humanitarian channels and restore long-dormant peace talks.”

“Tim’s diplomacy will be bolstered by USAID working to ensure humanitarian aid is reaching the Yemeni nation who is suffering a painful devastation,” he had maintained.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has welcomed Biden’s statement, especially his commitment to the country’s defense and addressing threats against it. The decision to end offensive operations in Yemen is part of changes in US foreign policy and to normalize the situation that has aggravated due to US intervention.