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Yemeni children will suffer from hunger for 20 years

27th Dec 2019
Yemeni children will suffer  from hunger for 20 years

The War Destroyed Our Dreams  (Credit: International Rescue Committee)

Nadine Osman

The war-ravaged children of Yemen will need 20 years just to reach the ‘lesser level of malnutrition’ they suffered before the start of the war, and that is only if the conflict immediately ends, that’s according to a charity report released on December 2.

The report by the International Rescue Committee also concluded that without an immediate ceasefire, the war could cost the international community an additional £22 billion in resources, “Yemen is now home to the largest food insecure population in the world,” reads the report titled The War Destroyed Our Dreams.

Last year, famine was declared in certain parts of the country. 80 per cent of the country’s population of 24 million is facing severe food shortages and living on the edge of famine, with children suffering the most.

“It means each child is robbed of opportunities they would have had,” said Frank McManus, Yemen Director for the International Rescue Committee, speaking in a phone interview from the country’s Houthi-controlled capital, Sana’a.

“Malnourishment is not something you can recover from,” he said.It will shorten your height. It will limit your opportunities. It will impact how you will develop. This will also restrict the development of the nation,” he continued. “So much of the youth will be less than they could have been if they hadn’t gone through this.”

Yemen’s war began as a conflict between Houthi rebels rooted in the country’s northern countryside and the United Nations-endorsed Government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. Saudi airstrikes have had a devastating impact on civilians, as have sieges on populated areas by both the Houthi and Government side.

The UK, US and France have been strongly criticised for continuing to sell advanced weapons and provide military support to the Saudi regime in its efforts to defeat the Houthis. Yet both sides in the war have failed to meet their aims.

The report says the conflict has not only devastated Yemen but boomeranged on Saudi Arabia and the UAE, the latter of which has been scrambling for months to find an exit from the conflict.

McManus said that while terrorist groups such as Isis and the local al-Qaida affiliate are not as strong as they were a couple of years ago, they continue to retain a foothold in the country. “The war has not reduced the influence of the jihadis,” he said. “It is giving them space to grow, making them more important in national dynamics.”

The International Rescue Committee urges an urgent peace, pointing to the modest successes of the so-called Stockholm Agreement that curtailed fighting in the port city of Hodeidah a year ago.

Even though violations of the ceasefire regularly take place, a devastating humanitarian crisis over the port city and a potential worsening of the food insecurity in the country’s north was averted. Still, McManus pointed out, the ceasefire in Hodeidah immediately intensified fighting in other parts of the country.

“The ceasefire around Hodeidah isn’t perfect, but it’s better than nothing,” he said. Humanitarian aid by international organisations remains the sole lifeline for the country, which has suffered an economic collapse because of the war.

McManus said, “The US and UK have the influence on one side. We have much less influence over [the Houthis and Iran]. We should focus on where we can influence: the UK or the US.


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