PV Vancouver Bureau


               A leading international aid group says that an estimated 85,000 Yemeni children under the age of 5 may have died of hunger and disease since the outbreak of the country's civil war in 2015. That would bring the numbers of deaths in the conflict several times higher than the usual estimates given by corporate media outlets in the West.

               Save the Children based its figures on mortality rates for untreated cases of severe acute malnutrition, or SAM, in young children. The United Nations says more than 1.3 million children have suffered from SAM since a Saudi-led coalition went to war with Yemen's Houthi rebels in March 2015.

               The aid group said its "conservative estimate" was that 84,701 children may have died, based on historical studies that find that 20 to 30 percent of untreated cases lead to death. The figure is based on the number of cases reported in areas where aid groups were unable to intervene.

               "For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it's entirely preventable," said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children's Yemen director. "Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop."

               The war has given rise to the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Three-quarters of Yemen's people require life-saving assistance and as many as 12 million are at risk of starvation. Tens of thousands of people are believed to have been killed in the fighting.

Save the Children blamed the widespread starvation on a Saudi-led blockade that was tightened a year ago after the rebels fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

               The charity also cited recent fighting in and around the port city of Hodeidah, through which Yemen imports some 70 percent of its food and humanitarian aid. It said commercial imports through the rebel-held port have fallen by more than 55,000 metric tons a month — enough to meet the needs of 4.4 million people. Save the Children now brings supplies for the northern Yemen through the southern port of Aden, slowing aid deliveries.

               Meanwhile, attacks by the Saudi-led coalition forces against the Houthi rebels flared up again on Nov. 20 around Hodeidah, despite United Nations calls for a ceasefire. The escalation began late the previous day when coalition air strikes hit Houthi forces in and around the port, undermining the latest UN efforts to end the three-year war.

               The coalition has been attempting to retake Hodeidah since last summer, with its forces now five kilometers from the port, through which much international emergency aid is delivered.

               Shortly before resuming their offensive, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, whose military intervention accounts largely for the civilian suffering, pledged $500 million in aid to assist millions of Yemenis at risk of starvation. The cynical Saudi announcement follows days after UN World Food Programme head David Beasley visited Yemen before telling the UN Security Council that as many as 12 million of the 28 million Yemenis “are just one step away from famine.”

               UN envoy Martin Griffiths announced on Nov. 16 that both sides had agreed to attend peace talks in Sweden “soon,” with Yemeni officials suggesting that talks would take place on November 29.

(With files from Associated Press and Morning Star)


(The above article article is from the December 1-31, 2018, issue of People's Voice, Canada's leading socialist newspaper. Articles can be reprinted free if the source is credited. Subscription rates in Canada: $30/year, or $15 low income rate; for U.S. readers - $45 US per year; other overseas readers - $45 US or $50 CDN per year. Send to People's Voice, c/o PV Business Manager, 706 Clark Drive, Vancouver, BC, V5L 3J1.)