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Yemen is dealing with famine and disease of biblical proportions, according to the United Nations.
The World Food Programme estimates some 7 million people in Yemen are facing famine-like conditions and rely entirely on food aid to survive. In six weeks, the food supplies to feed them will be exhausted. More than 2 million children are malnourished, and almost 400,000 of them are so skeletal they require treatment to stay alive.
The war between Iranian backed Houthi rebels and Saudi Arabia’s military has already claimed thousands of lives. Adding to the chaos, the United Arab Emirates has armed and trained fighters across the country.
Hardly any media organisations have been able to gain access. Euronews spoke to Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen.
“There’s parties involved in this conflict on all sides and there’s a war raging in all parts of the country. The problem is that 17 million people are caught up in that, who are in a very precarious situation. And of those there are 500,000 children who, those very serious and scary pictures of children you’ll see throughout the country, we struggle to feed them, to keep them surviving,” he said in a Skype interview.
The Saudi-led coalition has eased a blockade imposed earlier this week to stem the flow of arms to Houthi rebels. But the UN is calling for international action to bring all sides to the talks table.
“We don’t want displaced people we don’t want refugees. We’ve got two million people displaced inside the country and we want them to go back. And they have to go back and create some kind of normality for themselves. Unfortunately, this conflict is putting them back decades in terms of development,” McGoldrick said.
The World Food Programme estimates the number of Yemenis needing aid has risen to 20 million this year, or more than two-thirds of the population.
An unprecedented cholera epidemic has also infected about 900,000 people and killed more than 2,100 across the country since April.
The Houthis, drawn mainly from Yemen’s Zaidi Shi’ite minority and allied to long-serving former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, control much of the country including the capital San’aa. Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies have been
waging war against them on behalf of the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, based in Aden.
The Saudis and their allies say the Houthis get weapons from their arch-foe, Iran. Iran denies arming the Houthis and blames the conflict in Yemen on Riyadh.