Yemen is on the verge of collapse as poverty and disease, exacerbated by war and a lack of resources, have ravaged the country.
Save the Children warned on Tuesday that tens of thousands of children were dying with the healthcare system crumbling as a result of scarce resources and the flight of medical staff.
At least 1,219 children have so far died as a direct result of the fighting between a Saudi-led coalition and Houthi rebels, but the lack of medical supplies and staff is currently causing an additional 10,000 preventable deaths per year.
“Even before the war tens of thousands of Yemeni children were dying of preventable causes,” said Edward Santiago, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director. “But now the situation is much worse and an estimated 1,000 children are dying every week from preventable killers like diarrhoea, malnutrition and respiratory tract infections.”
“With parents losing their jobs and livelihoods owing to the chaos of war, many told us they have to sell belongings like jewellery, vehicles, gas canisters and land just to be able to afford the trip to hospital while others have taken out loans. Once there they often can’t afford the cost of the medicines their children urgently need while many other parents find the facility just does not have life-saving medicines.”
Eighty-six percent of people in Yemen are thought to be in need of humanitarian aid, a state which a new report by the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) described as “borderline famine”.
The report said that the children of Yemen were potentially a “lost generation” due to illness, poverty and lack of education and would provide a vital breeding ground for militants groups such as al-Qaeda and Islamic State (IS), both of whom have a foothold in Yemen.
Nineteen million people are living without safe drinking water and 14.1 million are without food security. $56m pledged by the EU barely touches the $1.63bn gap that needs to be bridged in order to meet Yemen’s aid needs.
“Yemen has received a fraction of the international attention accorded to Syria,” said the report’s author, Adam Baron. “But in many ways what’s happening is now worse than in Syria, in terms of both the humanitarian situation and the vacuum of state control that is giving space to extremist groups.”
“The country is rapidly reaching a point of total anarchy and state failure, which will make it impossible for Europe to ignore, not least because of the possible wave of Yemeni refugees that could seek shelter on European shores.”
Yemen’s 20-month-old conflict has directly killed more than 7,000 people and wounded nearly 37,000, according to the United Nations.
The Houthis overran the capital Sanaa and other parts of the impoverished country in September 2014, prompting a Saudi-led Arab military coalition to intervene six months later in support of the president.