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Yemen Compounding Disasters

Every 10 minutes, a child in Yemen dies of malnutrition

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Updated December 13, 2018 05:38 PM EST

Editor's note: This story was originally published Dec. 14, 2017.

WASHINGON (CIRCA) — Yemen currently has the greatest level of humanitarian needs in the world, but has received almost no international attention from media — or politicians.

The 2 1/2-year conflict in Yemen has been overshadowed by wars in Syria and Iraq, prompting aid workers to refer to the crisis as the "forgotten war."

"It's probably one of the biggest crises in the world but it's like a silent crisis, a silent situation and a forgotten war," UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick told CNN.

APTOPIX Mideast Yemen
A displaced boy poses for a photo at a camp for internally displaced people in the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, June 8, 2016. Yemen's conflict pits the government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, against Shiite rebels known as Houthis allied with a former president. Yemen's war has killed at least 6,200 civilians and injured tens of thousands of Yemenis, and 2.4 million people have been displaced, according to U.N. figures. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)

Nearly 80 percent of the country's total population needs humanitarian aid

An estimated 21.2 million people, half of whom are children, are in need of some kind of humanitarian assistance, including food, water, shelter, fuel and sanitation.

But as of October 2017, the UN's appeal for $2.1 billion to assist the crisis in Yemen was only 7 percent funded.

"The scale of suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict in Yemen is shocking."
Meritxell Relano, UNICEF Yemen Representative

McGoldrick expressed disappointment and frustration with the lack of international attention: "The world has turned a blind eye to what's happening in Yemen ... Right now, we are so under-resourced for this crisis, it's extraordinary."

"The scale of suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict in Yemen is shocking," said UNICEF Yemen Representative Meritxell Relano.

A Yemeni child dies due to lack of food every 10 minutes

Since January, at least 50,000 Yemeni children died of starvation and disease.

Another 400,000 children are currently on the brink of malnutrition and more than 8 million people are on the verge of famine.

"The scale of suffering as a result of the ongoing conflict in Yemen is shocking," said UNICEF Yemen Representative Meritxell Relano.

Yemen
In this Sept. 9, 2016, file photo, Salem, 5, who suffers from malnutrition, sits on a bed at a hospital in the port city of Hodeidah, southwest of Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo, File)

The United States’ role in the crisis in Yemen

In March 2015, Saudi Arabia launched a military intervention in Yemen after rebels overthrew the Saudi and U.S.-backed government.

Since then, the U.S. and United Kingdom have been providing the Saudi military with significant financial, logistical and weapons support.

Along with deadly airstrikes targeting schools, hospitals and other civilian areas, Saudi Arabia has created blockades to prevent aid from reaching people desperately need.

Saudi Arabia tightened a blockade on the country on Nov. 6, but restrictions were slightly eased on Nov. 26, in response to pressure from the United Nations, but aid agencies say many key ports remain closed.

UNICEF officials say that unless all the ports are opened, it will be impossible for them to deliver even a fraction of the aid needed.

U.N. official Mark Lowcock warned that if the blockade isn't reversed, Yemen will experience "the largest famine the world has seen for many decades with millions of victims."

Udai Faisal
FILE - In this March 22, 2016, file photo, Udai Faisal, an infant suffering from acute malnutrition, who died on March 24, is hospitalized at Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen. (AP Photo/Maad al-Zikry, File)

A devastating cholera epidemic has ravaged almost a million people in Yemen

Cholera, which can lead to fatal dehydration without treatment, is rapidly spreading in Yemen.

Almost 1 million Yemenis have been infected this year. Over 2,200 have died and 27 percent of the cholera victims are under the age of 5, according to the World Health Organization.

It estimates juvenile cholera cases will reach 600,000 by the end of the year.

Unsanitary conditions and a lack of clean water, along with the hindrance of the transportation of vital medicine and vaccines, is worsening an already devastating epidemic.

A representative from Yemen for Doctors Without Borders said before the war, Yemen could have easily contained the outbreak.

On Dec. 12, Doctors Without Borders reported a suspected outbreak of diphtheria in Yemen.

There have been 318 suspected cases of diphtheria and 28 deaths have been reported from mid-August to early December. Half of the suspected cases are children between the ages of 5 and 14, and nearly 95 percent of the deaths are children under 15.

"Globally, diphtheria has been eradicated from most countries after systematic childhood vaccination campaigns, and it's become something of a neglected and forgotten disease," said Marc Poncin, MSF emergency coordinator.

"There has been a concrete loss of knowledge regarding its treatment, and this is making it much more difficult for health workers to quickly and correctly identify, isolate and treat cases," Poncin said.

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