Imagine every kid under five years old in Canada’s third most populous city, dying of hunger amid a war that has dragged on for almost four years.
Yemen is approaching that mark as Houthi rebels, allegedly backed by Iran, continue to fight a war against a Saudi-led coalition supported by the United States, a new report from international charity Save the Children shows.
Coverage of Yemen on Globalnews.ca:
An estimated 85,000 children under five years old may have died due to starvation between April 2015 and October 2018, the report said.
The charity arrived at these figures by looking at data around Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) that was compiled by the United Nations (UN).
Their analysis found that approximately 84,701 who had SAM could have died in that time frame.
To put that in perspective — that’s nearly as many children under five years old who were living in Calgary as of the 2016 Census.
Young children have died under conditions in Yemen that have seen kids subsist on as little as boiled leaves and moldy bread crumbs.
As many as 14 million people are at risk of famine in the country, a number that has only grown after the coalition imposed a nearly month-long blockade on Yemen in November 2017.
The average amount of food that has entered Yemen’s ports on a monthly basis doesn’t meet national requirements — although imports fluctuate from one month to the next.
On average, Yemen needs to import 350,000 metric tonnes of food every month, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
The ports were taking in an average of 335,185 metric tonnes of food between July 2016 and October 2017.
That amount dropped to 279,377 metric tonnes of food following the blockade, though food imports exceeded national requirements by 24 per cent in September — they failed to meet national requirements in October.
Yemen is, however, far from meeting its national requirements for fuel, and has been since before the blockade, as this infographic shows:
Save the Children developed its estimates for starvation deaths by looking at malnutrition estimates between 2015 and 2018.
In that time, 1,314,679 have had to be treated for Severe Acute Malnutrition.
The estimate of 84,701 deaths represented the midpoint of estimates contained in four historical studies that examined the connection between severe malnutrition and death, and a Middle Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) of children who were seriously undernourished in Yemen.
“For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable,” Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen, said in a news release.
“Children who die in this way suffer immensely as their vital organ functions slow down and eventually stop. Their immune systems are so weak they are more prone to infections with some too frail to even cry.
“Parents are having to witness their children wasting away, unable to do anything about it.”
Yemen is supplied by the ports of Saleef and Hudaydah, and the coalition is controlling supplies to the country, Jamie Graves, field manager for Save the Children in Yemen, told Global News earlier this month.
Rebels, however, currently control the port at Hudaydah, and the military has not been able to take it over, Graves noted.
The country, he said, is dependent on imports to feed as much as 80 per cent of its population.
WATCH: Yemen on brink of famine, health workers plead for help
Graves did see some hope in efforts by the United States to seek peace in Yemen and said that the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi has “changed the political dynamic in the region.”
Canada, meanwhile, has called on “all parties to bring a permanent end to the ongoing conflict in Yemen.”
Matters have changed around the Khashoggi situation since he spoke with Global News, however.
The CIA has since concluded that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman ordered Khashoggi’s killing.
On Tuesday, U.S. President Donald Trump responded by extolling support for Saudi Arabia and defending its role in the Yemen war.
“Saudi Arabia would gladly withdraw from Yemen if the Iranians would agree to leave,” he said.
- With files from Maham Abedi, Robin Gill and the Associated Press