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Yemen 'hanging on by a thread' warns UN Secretary-General

File photograph: The aftermath of an air strike in Sanaa, 2015. (Courtesy:  Ibrahem Qasim)

Yemen is currently facing the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, with 80% of the population in desperate need of humanitarian aid, and those figures set to worsen according to a UNICEF report which appealed for urgent humanitarian assistance.

The report, released last week, warned that the number of malnourished children in the country could reach 2.4 million - a 20 percent increase - by the end of the year. The report comes as the foreign ministers of Germany, Sweden and the UK wrote in the Financial Times that they have “a global responsibility to ease the suffering of the Yemeni people”.

“We are ready to help once an agreement is reached to end the conflict and to reverse the fragmentation of the country,” they wrote in a joint piece this week.

Meanwhile, protestors marched through the streets of London last week, with signs calling for the UK to be held accountable for its role in the conflict, which includes the sale of weapons to the Saudi-led coalition. A UN panel of experts report last year warned that Britain, the US and France may be complicit in war crimes by arming and providing support to the coalition. “They got money for wars but can’t feed the poor,” read one sign. “Save Yemen," read another.

After five years of armed conflict, at least 24 million people in Yemen are left living in devastating conditions. According to UNICEF, millions of families and children are in desperate need of food, water and medical supplies. The fighting has destroyed ports and infrastructure used for food imports, leaving 20 million people in food-insecurity and 3.3 million children or pregnant women severely malnourished. 

The collapse of the health system has left 30,000 healthcare professionals working without any salary in attempts to fight the outbreak of cholera, COVID-19 cases and famine. UNICEF warned this week that another 6,600 children under the age of five could also die from preventable causes, in the next six months alone, with 19.7 million people are still in need of basic healthcare.

Earlier this month UN Secretary-General António Guterres warned that the crisis has left Yemenis “hanging on by a thread”.

In London, protest organiser Iesa Ali said, “I remember was how beautiful the country once was”. The 19-year-old is involved in running a charity called the Ana Al-Watan Foundation in partnership with coordinators in Sanaa and Aden. The non-profitable organisation is distributing food, resources and entertainment for the children of Yemen in the hopes to make a difference.

“It’s deeply upsetting thinking about the children and families who are suffering,” he added. 

“Their main goal for the day is to try to survive and find as much nutrition as possible when all they have around them is dirt and leaves… We need to use our voices to make a change”.

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