Almost 2.4 million children in Yemen could be at risk of starvation by the end of the year, said UNICEF in a new report published on Friday, citing severe disruptions in the provision of humanitarian aid funding due to the Coronavirus crisis.

Over the next six months, an additional 30,000 children could develop life-threatening severe acute malnutrition, and 6,000 aged under 5 could die from preventable causes by the end of the year, UNICEF added.

“As the world’s attention focuses on the COVID-19 pandemic, I fear the children of Yemen will be all but forgotten” said Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF Representative to Yemen, in a statement.

Yemen is counting a five years since the conflict escalated in the country between the Saudi-backed Government forces and their allies, against the Iran-aligned Houthi rebel militias, leading to  thousands of civilian casualties, and to over 24 million people n desperate need of humanitarian aid. The UN children’s fund has appealed for a sustainable peace agreement, in a bid to put an end to the deadly, long-lasting conflict.

The Coronavirus outbreak across the globe marked the arrival of “a new emergency on top of an emergency,” with the country struggling to survive both the dozens of active frontlines of violence across its territory and the pandemic.

“Countless childhoods have been lost in this five-year war and we fear we will lose many more as COVID-19 spreads” Nyanti said.

The unprecedented crisis caused by the pandemic had donor countries cutting back on aid provision, with mainly Arab and Western countries pledging $1.35 bn for aid operations in Yemen during a virtual donor conference on June 2, and falling one billion short of what UN aid agencies had asked for.

In 2020, UNICEF is appealing for nearly US $461 million to respond to the humanitarian emergency, while for the Coronavirus response alone, the UN agency has called for an additional $53 million. It stressed that unless $54.5 million is received for health and nutrition services by the end of August, 23,000 children with severe acute malnutrition will be at increased risk of dying.

“If we do not receive urgent funding, children will be pushed to the brink of starvation and many will die. The international community will be sending a message that the lives of children in a nation devastated by conflict, disease and economic collapse, simply do not matter”,  the UNICEF Representative to Yemen warned.

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