UN appeals for $2.1 billion to prevent famine in Yemen

A severely malnourished Yemeni child holds onto his mother.

The United Nations has appealed for $2.1 billion to provide food and other life-saving assistance to 12 million people in Yemen who are suffering under famine conditions after two year of war.

Jamie McGoldrick, UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, called the situation “catastrophic and rapidly deteriorating” in the appeal document.

UN emergency relief coordinator Stephen O’Brien told a news briefing that if immediate action was not taken famine could be a real possibility for 2017.

“A staggering 7.3 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from,” he said, adding, “nearly 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – are acutely malnourished.”

UN figures according to Reuters show that 460,000 children under age five have the worst form of malnutrition and risk dying of pneumonia or diarrhoeal disease. UNICEF has reported the death of at least 63,000 children in 2016.

Yemen has been ripped apart by two years of internal fighting between a Western-backed Sunni Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia and an Iran-allied Shia Houthi group. According to the UN 16,200 people have been killed between March 2015 and January 2017.

Saudi Arabia, which launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 and is carrying out airstrikes with US support, has been accused of striking civilian targets and preventing aid from entering the country.