Nov. 22 (UPI) — Extreme hunger and disease in Yemen may have killed about 85,000 children younger than five, aid group Save the Children said in a study Wednesday.
The analysis was posted Wednesday, the same day United Nations envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in Yemen to try and settle the ongoing fighting.
Airstrikes have increased in the port city of Hudaydah as pro-government forces — backed by an alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates — try to retake control of the vital port from Iran-backed Houthi rebels.
The war has gone on for four years. The United States provided mid-air refueling to the Saudi coalition but discontinued the practice this month in light of civilian casualties and the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
Griffiths told the U.N. Security Council he received “firm assurances” the warring parties would attend peace talks in Sweden. A draft resolution by Britain set a two-week deadline for both parties to remove all barriers to humanitarian aid, including opening unhindered access to Hudaydah.
Save the Children said the heavy fighting in Hudaydah forced it to reroute supplies through the southern port of Aden, which takes longer to reach needy in the north.
Wednesday’s report said the number of 85,000 starving children is a “conservative estimate” based on U.N. data and cases of Severe Acute Malnutrition in children under five years old.
The group said it’s provided food for 140,000 children and treated more than 78,000 for malnutrition.
The malnourished children suffer “immensely,” experts say, as their organs slowly shut down and eventually stop. Their immune systems are weak and more prone to infections and some are too frail to even cry.
“Parents are having to witness their children wasting away, unable to do anything about it. We are horrified that some 85,000 children in Yemen may have died because of extreme hunger sine the war began,” Save the Children Country Director Tamer Kirolos said. “For every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death and it’s entirely preventable.”