Starving girl shows impact of Yemen war, economic collapse
admin • February 15, 2019 • 6851
Displaced by war, starving and living under a tree, 12-year-old Fatima Qoba weighed just 10kg when she was carried into a Yemeni malnutrition clinic.
“All the fat reserves in her body have been used up, she is left only with skin and bones,” Makiah al-Aslami, a doctor and head of the clinic in northwest Yemen.
Qoba’s slide into starvation is typical of what is happening in much of Yemen, where war and economic collapse have driven around 10 million people to the brink of famine, according to the United Nations.
Aslami said she is expecting more and more malnutrition cases to come through her door. This month she is treating more than 40 pregnant women with severe malnutrition.
“So in the coming months I expect I will have 43 underweight children,” she said.
She said that since the end of 2018, 14 deaths from malnutrition had occurred at her clinic alone.
Qoba, her 10 siblings and father were forced from their home near the border with Saudi Arabia and forced to live under a tree, Qoba’s older sister, also called Fatima, told Reuters.
She said they were fleeing bombardment from the Saudi-led coalition, which intervened in Yemen in 2015 to restore the internationally recognised government ofYemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthi-movement ousted it from power in the capital Sanaa in 2014.
“We don’t have money to get food. All we have is what our neighbours and relatives give us,” the sister said. Their father, in his 60s, is unemployed. “He sits under the tree and doesn’t move.”
“If we stayed here and starved no one would know about us. We don’t have a future,” she said.
After trying two other hospitals which could not help, a relative found the money to transport Qoba to the clinic in Houthi-controlled Aslam, one of Yemen’s poorest districts with high malnutrition levels.
Lying on green hospital sheets, Qoba’s skin is papery, her eyes huge and her skeletal frame encased in a loose orange dress. A health worker feeds her a pale mush from a bowl.
Aslami said the girl needed a month of treatment to build up her body and mind.
The United Nations is trying to implement a ceasefire and troop withdrawal from Yemen’s main port of Hodeidah, where most of Yemen’s imports come from. But violence continues to displace people in other parts of the country, and cut access routes for food, fuel and aid.
There is food in Yemen, but severe inflation has eroded people’s ability to buy it, and the non-payment of government worker salaries has left many households without incomes.
“It’s a disaster on the edge of famine … Yemeni society and families are exhausted,” Aslami said. “The only solution is to stop the war.” — Reuters
A nationwide ceasefire in response to the global coronavirus outbreak went into effect in Yemen on Thursday (April 9), raising hope for an end to the five-year-old war that has pushed millions to the brink of famine.
A Saudi-led coalition fighting against Yemen’s Houthi movement said it would halt military operations from 0900 GMT for two weeks in support of United Nations efforts to end the conflict that has killed more than 100,000 people.
The Iran-aligned movement, which controls the capital Sanaa and most big urban centres, has yet to announce whether it will follow suit in what would be the first major breakthrough in peace efforts since late 2018.
The United Nations and Western allies have pointed to the threat of the coronavirus to push the combatants to restart talks to end the war, which has shattered Yemen’s health system.
The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, Lise Grande, told Reuters at least half of Yemen’s population was in a “very degraded health status” while three quarters require some form of humanitarian assistance or protection.
The conflict, widely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in military stalemate for years and brought Yemen’s economy to its knees. (Reuters)
Yemen reported its first case of the novel coronavirus on Friday (April 10) as aid groups try to prepare for an outbreak in a country where war has shattered the health system and spread hunger and disease.
The case was diagnosed in the southern oil-producing region of Hadhramaut, the supreme national emergency committee said.
The patient was a Yemeni, working in the small commercial port of Ash Shihr, a local official told Reuters.
Authorities ordered the closure of Ash Shihr port for a week for deep cleaning and instructed workers there to isolate at home for two weeks, according to a directive seen by Reuters.
They also imposed a 12-hour nightly curfew in all Hadhramaut districts starting from 6:00 pm Friday until further notice. Civil defence vehicles near the port were ordering people through loudspeakers to stay home, residents said.
Yemen has been mired in violence since the Iran-aligned Houthi movement overthrew the government in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene. The Houthis still control Sanaa and most large urban centres.
The five-year-old conflict has killed more than 100,000 and pushed millions to the brink of famine. (Reuters)
SANAA, YEMEN – Saad al-Zaidi, a 12-year-old student from Yemen, left school last year to seek a job on a farm on the outskirts of the capital Sanaa to help his father make a living for a family of nine.
This was not an easy decision for Saad or his father, a Sunni mosque preacher who lost his job when the Shiite Houthi rebels took control of Sanaa and most of the country’s northwest in late 2014.
Saad gains 1,500 riyals (roughly 2.5 dollars) per day and buys food for the family.
He is one of over two million children who are out of schools amid the continuing war in Yemen.
“I have to help my father,” Saad told Efe as he stood on a street leading to the school he used to attend in the Jader outskirts north of Sanaa.
“I like to study, but I cannot attend a class while my family needs food,” he explained, while his father nodded in agreement.
“The tragedy we are experiencing has plagued all people, not just me,” Saad’s father Ibrahim said.
“Because of our conditions, the father may have to take his children out of school to help with the living,” he added.
“I cannot feed seven children, let alone educating them,” he continued.
Hisham Oqbah, 14, is another student at the same school. He dropped out two years ago along with an older brother aged 15, for the same reason; to make a living for a family of eight.
Their father was a soldier and lost his job. He could not pay 10,000 riyals (around $17) of monthly house rent for two years.
“We sometimes find a job with a construction contractor, and sometimes we do not find any job and stay at home,” said Hisham.
They receive 2,000 riyals per day each.
Hisham dropped out of school after he finished the sixth grade of their primary school.
His lucky peers are still attending classes in the rundown one-story building that was an abandoned house turned to a school in Jader.
Around 500 students are enrolled and take turns attending the classes in the morning and afternoon in the only five classrooms.
The school looks like it is falling apart from the inside out. Missing or broken windows make tables, floor and even books dusty. Cracked walls are streaked with grime.
Some of the students sit on the floor due to the lack of chairs.
Students and teachers alike have neither toilets nor a cafeteria.
Although their school conditions are less-than-acceptable, they look lucky. They are learning, while Saad, Hisham and many other peers had to leave school to work and bring bread to their families.
Children in Yemen are not only deprived of education as the war goes on. They become a casualty of that war.
Khaled Shamsan, the school’s headmaster, said some of the students who drop out of school become combatants.
“Some of my students have chosen to go with the Ansarullah (Houthis),” Shamsan told EFE.
“Some of them have been injured and some are still at the frontlines,” he said.
UNICEF’s representative to Yemen Sara Beysolow Nyanti said such conditions are partly why Yemen is “the worst place for a child to be born.”
“A child born in a situation of bombardment, in a situation of war, in a situation of not knowing what tomorrow would bring, in a situation where they do not know whether or not their dreams can be realized, it is the worst place for a child to be born today,” Nyanti told Efe.
“The education system is dilapidated.
“Education is the least funded area in the entire humanitarian response in Yemen.”
UNICEF and partners have verified that around 3,000 children have been killed and 5,000 others injured since the war began in 2015.
“We expect the figures are far higher than that. Because of war, we are not able to verify all of the cases across the country,” she said.
“But that is too many children. Already one child killed is too many children. One child injured is too many children,” she added.
Despite those figures of fatalities and injuries among Yemeni children, says Nyanti, still the biggest risk they face is education.
“The greatest risk of the children right now besides their right to live and develop, we have to make sure that they are educated,” she said.
“If a child does not have education, the child would never fulfill his or her development potential … Even if the child lives and never get educated, what would be the quality of life for that child?” she asked. EFE-EPA
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