Skip to main content

'Another cry for help from Yemen,' where 400,000 children could starve

According to the United Nations, nearly 2.3 million Yemeni children under the age of five are likely to experience acute malnutrition this year.
Yemeni children fill jerrycans with water from a cistern at a camp for internally displaced people by conflict in the northern Hajjah province on October 12, 2020. (Photo by ESSA AHMED / AFP) (Photo by ESSA AHMED/AFP via Getty Images)

As many as 400,000 starving children in Yemen are at risk of dying without urgent treatment for malnutrition, a group of United Nations agencies warned on Friday. 

Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five in the war-torn country are likely to experience acute malnutrition in 2021, according to an analysis published Friday from the UN food agency , UNICEF, the World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization. 

“The increasing number of children going hungry in Yemen should shock us all into action,” UNICEF director Henrietta Fore said in a joint statement. “More children will die with every day that passes without action. Humanitarian organizations need urgent predictable resources and unhindered access to communities on the ground to be able to save lives.”

Yemen is embroiled in a civil war pitting the Houthi rebels against a Saudi-led military coalition that intervened on behalf of the internationally recognized government in 2015. After some six years of war, the United Nations considers Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. 

The UN agencies noted that good maternal health is key to preventing child malnutrition, but in Yemen, roughly 1.2 million million pregnant or breastfeeding women are estimated to be acutely malnourished this year. 

“These numbers are yet another cry for help from Yemen, where each malnourished child also means a family struggling to survive,” said WFP director David Beasley. 

The coronavirus pandemic along with widespread flooding, economic decline and the ongoing conflict between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels have compounded what was already a dire situation for women and children. Nearly 80% of the population — over 24 million people — require some form of humanitarian assistance to survive.

The UN figures come a week after the Joe Biden administration said it would reverse the terror designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels. Aid agencies had warned the blacklisting, which the administration announced in January, could hamper their efforts to deliver aid in the Arab world's poorest country. The UN warned last month the terror designation represented a “death sentence” for hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of Yemeni civilians.

The Biden administration unveiled major changes to Washington’s Yemen policy last week, including ending US support for the Saudi-led coalition and appointing career diplomat Tim Lenderking as special envoy to Yemen. Relief organizations are also calling on Biden to restore US aid to northern Yemen that the Donald Trump administration cut last year.

Join hundreds of Middle East professionals with Al-Monitor PRO.

Business and policy professionals use PRO to monitor the regional economy and improve their reports, memos and presentations. Try it for free and cancel anytime.

Already a Member? Sign in


The Middle East's Best Newsletters

Join over 50,000 readers who access our journalists dedicated newsletters, covering the top political, security, business and tech issues across the region each week.
Delivered straight to your inbox.


What's included:
Our Expertise

Free newsletters available:

  • The Takeaway & Week in Review
  • Middle East Minute (AM)
  • Daily Briefing (PM)
  • Business & Tech Briefing
  • Security Briefing
  • Gulf Briefing
  • Israel Briefing
  • Palestine Briefing
  • Turkey Briefing
  • Iraq Briefing

Premium Membership

Join the Middle East's most notable experts for premium memos, trend reports, live video Q&A, and intimate in-person events, each detailing exclusive insights on business and geopolitical trends shaping the region.

$25.00 / month
billed annually

Become Member Start with 1-week free trial
What's included:
Our Expertise AI-driven

Memos - premium analytical writing: actionable insights on markets and geopolitics.

Live Video Q&A - Hear from our top journalists and regional experts.

Special Events - Intimate in-person events with business & political VIPs.

Trend Reports - Deep dive analysis on market updates.

All premium Industry Newsletters - Monitor the Middle East's most important industries. Prioritize your target industries for weekly review:

  • Capital Markets & Private Equity
  • Venture Capital & Startups
  • Green Energy
  • Supply Chain
  • Sustainable Development
  • Leading Edge Technology
  • Oil & Gas
  • Real Estate & Construction
  • Banking

We also offer team plans. Please send an email to and we'll onboard your team.

Already a Member? Sign in

Gulf Briefing Gulf Briefing

Gulf Briefing

Top GCC stories in your inbox each week

Trend Reports

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (4th R) attends a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping (3rd L) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on February 22, 2019. (Photo by HOW HWEE YOUNG / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read HOW HWEE YOUNG/AFP via Getty Images)

From roads to routers: The future of China-Middle East connectivity

A general view shows the solar plant in Uyayna, north of Riyadh, on March 29, 2018. - On March 27, Saudi announced a deal with Japan's SoftBank to build the world's biggest solar plant. (Photo by FAYEZ NURELDINE / AFP) (Photo credit should read FAYEZ NURELDINE/AFP via Getty Images)

Regulations on Middle East renewable energy industry starting to take shape

Start your PRO membership today.

Join the Middle East's top business and policy professionals to access exclusive PRO insights today.

Join Al-Monitor PRO Start with 1-week free trial