Harrowing images of skeletal children have revealed the horror of Yemen’s humanitarian crisis with an estimated 370,000 children facing starvation.
As the nation’s war continues disturbing footage obtained by BBC Arabic shows severely malnourished children, some close to death.
They included an eight year old boy called Salim who was filmed screaming in pain at a Yemeni hospital.
“I never imagined I’d see a child like this in Yemen. This boy is starving,” said Dr Ashwag Muharram, a paediatrician.
Yemen’s war has left one of the world’s poorest countries on the brink of famine with 80 per cent of its total population of 26 million in need of humanitarian aid.
The UN estimates that 96,600 children under the age of five are at risk of starvation in the Red Sea port city, Hudaydah, and its surrounding province alone.
A land and sea blockade of the area by coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia has seen fishing decline by 75 per cent and food prices rise by 60 per cent.
People in nearly half of Yemen’s 22 provinces are on the verge of starvation, according to the UN World Food Programme.
The Arab coalition – backed and armed by the UK – is fighting Houthi rebels who are battling forces loyal to the exiled Yemeni president.
Earlier this month the UN estimated that 10,000 people have been killed since the war started, describing the situation as “tragic”.
Save The Children said mothers are watching their children die and that the country’s health system is on the edge of collapse.
Alice Klein, a spokesperson for Save The Children, said: “Now, a third of all children under five are acutely malnourished – around 1.3 million youngsters – and with no end to the conflict in sight, these numbers are likely to get worse.
“When mothers who are malnourished themselves are no longer able to breastfeed their babies , they have had to resort to alternatives. Things like plain water or unpasteurised animal milk which can lead babies with especially low immune systems to infection, diarrhoea and – at worst – death.
“Even when families can get their poorly children to the few health facilities still functioning, there aren’t enough medical supplies or electricity to run life-saving incubators and other machines.”
As the violence continued last week at least 25 people were killed and 70 others wounded in a coalition air strike in Hudaydah.
The raid on Wednesday 21st September targeted a presidential palace used by Houthi rebels but missiles also hit neighbouring houses.
The UK Government has supplied its ally Saudi Arabia with Paveway IV missiles but been widely condemned for refusing to suspend arms sales amid allegations of war crimes.
Save the Children called on the UK government to back a UN-led investigation into claims of war crimes and to stop selling arms to the warring parties.
The charity was backed by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International who were among 11 organisations who sent a petition to the UN Human Rights Council.
“The Saudi Arabia-led coalition continues to commit violations of international human rights and humanitarian law with impunity,” the petition said.
It added: “The Saudi Arabia-led coalition’s investigations into violations have also failed to meet international standards.”
The Houthis were condemned for recruiting child soldiers. The petition stated: “The Houthi armed group and forces allied to it, including army forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have also committed numerous violations and abuses of international human rights and humanitarian law.”
In response to the calls for an independent inquiry into war crimes, the Foreign Office said it was “important that Saudi Arabia in the first instance conducts thorough and conclusive investigations into incidents where it is alleged that international humanitarian law has been breached”.
The statement added: “They have the best insight into their own military procedures and will be able to conduct the most through and conclusive investigations. It will also allow the country to really understand what went wrong and apply the lessons learnt in the best possible way. This is the standard we set ourselves and our allies.”
Last week in New York, USA, Secretary of State for International Development Priti Patel, announced that the UK Government would spend an extra £37m this year in Yemen, taking total UK spending to £100m.
Her announcement followed the BBC’s report highlighting the scale of starvation in Yemen.
Photographs courtesy of BBC World News and BBC Arabic.