More than five million children are in serious danger of dying from starvation in Yemen, as the ongoing war has caused food and fuel prices to soar, Save the Children has warned.
The UK-based charity said on Wednesday that any disruption to Hodeidah port, the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and aid supplies, could kill “an entire generation of Yemeni children”.
Hodeidah has been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks, as Houthi rebels, who control the city, battle forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates launched a large-scale operation to retake the strategic seaport on June 13, and see Hodeidah as the main entry point of weapons for the Houthis.
The alliance has accused their regional rival Iran of sending missiles to the rebels, a charge Tehran has denied.
Aid groups have warned renewed fighting at the port – a vital lifeline for goods and aid for 80 percent of the country’s population – could reduce the supply of food and fuel into Yemen and drive up prices even further.
“This war risks killing an entire generation of Yemen’s children who face multiple threats, from bombs to hunger to preventable diseases like cholera,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, the CEO of Save the Children.
“In one hospital I visited in north Yemen, the babies were too weak to cry, their bodies exhausted by hunger.
“Millions of children don’t know when or if their next meal will come,” she added.
According to the NGO, more than two-thirds of Yemen’s population, 64.5 percent of all Yemenis, don’t know where their next meal will come from.
The UN has also warned that a failure to keep food, fuel, and aid flowing into Yemen, particularly through Hodeidah, could result in one of the worst hunger crises in living history.
The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has been pushing the warring parties to restart peace talks and arrived in Sanaa on Sunday to meet the Houthis amid continued fighting.
A spokesman for the rebels wrote on Twitter on Monday that Griffiths met the group’s leader, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, where discussions focused on the humanitarian situation in the country and plans for future consultations between the two sides.
Prices of consumer goods soar
According to Save the Children, Yemen’s depreciating currency, riyal, and collapsing economy have also contributed to pushing communities towards starvation.
Food prices are up by an average of 68 percent since 2015 and the riyal has depreciated nearly 180 percent.
While the official exchange rate is 250 Yemeni riyals to the dollar, the unofficial market rate is 600.
The price of fuel commodities like petrol, diesel and cooking gas increased by 25 percent between November last year and September 2018, and the price of food has doubled in some parts of the country, the charity said.
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been carrying out air raids on Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, in an attempt to reinstate Hadi’s government.
Hadi, who has lived in exile in Riyadh since 2015, was toppled by Houthi rebels in late 2014 after the rebels stormed south from their stronghold of Saada, and captured large parts of the north.
With logistical support from the US, the Saudi-UAE alliance has carried out more than 16,000 raids on Houthi-held areas in an attempt to reverse their gains.
These attacks have targeted weddings, hospitals as well as water and electricity plants, killing and wounding thousands.
According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed in the war, but the death toll that has not been updated in years and is certain to be far higher.
In July, the last month where statistics of air raids were available, Saudi and UAE jets launched 277 raids on Yemen, 43 percent of which targeted non-military sites.
The Yemen Data Project listed 101 air raids on Hodeidah and 108 air raids on Saada province, a region straddling the Saudi border that has been ravaged by violence since the start of the conflict.