By: Rose Troup Buchanan
In the 13 months since he was born, Nusair has twice almost died from a lack of food.
In August he recovered from severe acute malnutrition, but after his family was forced to flee fresh violence in Yemen in October, he once again had to fight for his life.
Nusair’s story is terrifyingly typical for families in Yemen, where 85,000 children aged under 5 are thought to have starved to death in almost four years of war.
The war is often dubbed a “forgotten war,” but the war on Yemen and the actions of a Saudi-led military coalition have received more attention following the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Turkey in October.
In addition to a three-and-a-half-year bombing campaign, Saudi Arabia has imposed economic sanctions and blockades. The United Nations has warned that 14 million people could be at risk of famine in Yemen — already one of the world’s poorest countries before the war started in 2015 .
“All of these factors combined has made Yemen a hell on earth for children,” Juliette Touma, Unicef’s Middle East and North Africa director reported.
Children often bear the brunt of this deprivation: The harrowing statistic of 85,000 young children thought to have starved to death since 2015 was called a conservative estimate by aid agency Save the Children, which released the figure.
Nusair had been one of the lucky ones — his family managed to get him to a health center supported by Save the Children in August when he first became ill, but by October he had fallen sick again. This time he was suffering from diarrhea and malnutrition because his mother was unable to get him to a treatment facility.
“I am scared of the war, worried we won’t have food, it is distressing. I can’t go to sleep, it is torturing, and I am worried about my children. I couldn’t live if any harm came to them,” his mother, identified as 32-year-old Suad, told Save the Children workers. “When you don’t have a roof over your head, you are always worried.”
“Yes, I am scared of the jet fighters and the hunger,” Suad said. “When the planes hit, you wonder if shrapnel will hit you and your children.”