More than 85,000 children under the age of five have starved to death as a result of Yemen’s civil war, a report from Save the Children has found, as the charity urged an immediate ceasefire to prevent more loss of life.
The figure is a conservative estimate based on UN data on severe acute malnutrition, which the international body says has afflicted more than 1.3 million children since the conflict began in 2015 between Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition that seeks to restore Yemen’s exiled government.
About 14 million people – half of Yemen’s population – are currently at risk of famine, largely because of Saudi border blockades designed to weaken the Houthis, which have also strangled civilian access to food, fuel, aid and commercial goods.
Fears for Yemen’s civilian population have increased in recent weeks because of an escalation in fighting around the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, through which about 80% of the country’s imports flow.
Even a small amount of damage to the port’s facilities, and a delay in aid deliveries, is likely to lead the UN to declare a widespread famine.
The UN’s special envoy to Yemen has extracted promises from both the coalition and the Houthis to attend peace talks at the end of November after a failed round in September.
A draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire was presented to the UN security council on Monday, although a vote has not yet been timetabled.
The UK along with other western governments has been repeatedly criticised by rights groups for its support for the Saudi-led coalition, including arms sales.