Save the Children says 130 children die every day in Yemen
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Save the Children says 130 children die every day in Yemen

Some 150,000 malnourished kids could die in coming months if Saudi Arabia doesn’t lift blockade against Houthi rebels, UN says

In this January 24, 2016 photo, a malnourished child lies in a bed waiting to receive treatment at a therapeutic feeding center in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)
In this January 24, 2016 photo, a malnourished child lies in a bed waiting to receive treatment at a therapeutic feeding center in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

CAIRO, Egypt — An international aid group says an estimated 130 children or more die every day in war-torn Yemen from extreme hunger and disease.

Save the Children said late on Wednesday that a continuing blockade by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Shiite rebels is likely to further increase the death rate. It says over 50,000 children are believed to have died in 2017.

Saudi Arabia blocked Yemen’s ports after a rebel missile attack near Riyadh earlier in November. It said Monday the coalition would lift the blockade after widespread international criticism.

On Thursday, the leaders of the World Health Organization, the UN children’s agency and the World Food Program issued a joint appeal for the easing of the blockade.

In this March 28, 2016 photo, Faisal Ahmed, whose infant son, Udai Faisal, died of severe acute malnutrition, sits with his nine remaining children at his house in Hazyaz village on the southern outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

“While the Saudi-led military coalition has partially lifted the recent blockade of Yemen, closure of much of the country’s air, sea and land ports is making an already catastrophic situation far worse,” they said.

“The space and access we need to deliver humanitarian assistance is being choked off, threatening the lives of millions of vulnerable children and families.”

The Saudi-led coalition went to war against the rebels, known as Houthis, in March 2015 on behalf of Yemen’s internationally recognized government. But the coalition has made little progress, and the rebels still control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.

The war has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced 3 million. Yemen was the Arab world’s poorest country even before the conflict began.

In this August 15, 2015 photo, a Yemeni child stands at a door as she waits to receive a polio vaccination during a house-to-house polio immunization campaign in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

The UN officials said more than 20 million people, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent assistance, with 7 million totally dependent on food assistance. The UN has called it the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

“Even with a partial lifting of the blockade, the World Food Program estimates that an additional 3.2 million people will be pushed into hunger. If left untreated, 150,000 malnourished children could die within the coming months,” the officials said.

In this April, 13, 2017 photo, Yemeni children wait to receive food rations provided by a local charity, in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed, File)

Later Thursday, the UN spokesman said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has written to Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador, saying the kingdom’s failure to reopen key airports and sea ports in Yemen is already reversing humanitarian efforts to tackle the crisis in the impoverished country.

Stephane Dujarric said Guterres welcomes the reopening of the port in the city of Aden but that this “will not meet the needs of 28 million Yemenis.”

Dujarric said the United Nations is urging the Saudi-led coalition to resume UN humanitarian flights to Aden and Sanaa, and to reopen the ports of Hodeida and Salif for food and medical deliveries.

Like the capital, Sanaa, Hodeida and Salif are in rebel-held territory.

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