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Unicef warns of a looming humanitarian crisis in Yemen

As Saudi airstrikes against Houthi rebels enter their second day, Unicef has cautioned that a humanitarian crisis in Yemen could become reality within a year.

According to Julien Harneis, Unicef’s spokesperson for the country, major progress in ensuring food security and access to health care risk being turned back as sources of international aid, including the World Bank and Saudi Arabian donors, are suspending their local activity.

The timing of this withdrawal couldn’t be more problematic, as over half of the population lives in poverty and millions lack adequate access to food and medical services. Yemen was already among the Arab world’s poorest countries before the internal crisis escalated.

Harneis added that spreading violence would result in more than malnutrition and dwindling medical supplies if more guns are put into the hands of children, who already make up 30% of soldiers fighting for various groups opposing Houthi domination.

Although he praised the United Kingdom’s Department of International Development for the continued allocation of funds to Yemen, he urged other international bodies to take a more active role in providing humanitarian aid.

As of today, the conflict shows no signs of calming down. Morocco became the latest member of the Saudi-led alliance against the Iranian-supported Houthi group, who sent President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi fleeing from the capital Sana’a last month. Saudi airstrikes have received the backing of U.S., Turkey, the Gulf states and Egypt, who announced yesterday that it would consider sending ground troops into Yemen.

The airstrikes have already inflicted civilian deaths, although reports on the precise number are conflicting. The Guardian has reported that the number is “thought to be 18”, while a Houthi television network claimed that dozens of people have been killed.

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