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Families and Children Forced to Eat Leaves as Crisis in Yemen Escalates

Ann Nuñez

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Aslam region, Northern Yemen – desperate for food to fill their aching stomachs, inhabitants of Al-Mashrada village boil leaves for sustenance. The leaves, collected from a vine known locally as halas (Arabian wax leaf), are boiled and mashed into an acidic paste.

The civil war that has been raging in the country since 2015 has been described as the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis” and has been also widely regarded as an extension of the Iran-Saudi Arabia conflict war. Already an impoverished nation prior to the uprising, Yemen was plunged into deeper chaos by the worsening famine. Approximately three-quarters of its population are in need of outside humanitarian aid. Children are severely malnourished and many families cannot afford to buy milk or medicine. If humanitarian aid remains inaccessible to them, many face death.

Yemenis rely on halas for their daily sustenance.

Local health officials are trying their best to provide care to the people using whatever resources available. In Aslam district, the main health center does not have electricity. There are also no pediatricians; nurses in the health center take measurements of emaciated children using makeshift weighing scales made out of plastic tubs. These children go back to their homes and villages where food is scarce and clean water is almost never heard of. Most of the time, they return to the health centers in even worse conditions; sometimes, they can’t even come back at all. Despite the huge death toll, it is most likely underreported since many families living in remote areas do not report deaths that occur at home.

Despite being tagged as the worst humanitarian crisis in recent history, much of what is occurring in Yemen remains to be hidden from the international community. The innocent civilians in Yemen remain isolated, unseen, and at risk of dying due to the ongoing conflict.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) has released a report which stated that Yemen will become the poorest nation in the world if the armed conflict continues until 2022. Following this trajectory, it has projected that 79% of the population would be living below the poverty line in 2022.

Many children in Yemen are severely malnourished.

The UNDP report, according to Ambassador Jürgen Schulz, Deputy Permanent Representative of Germany to the United Nations, is a reminder to the international community that Yemen “cannot afford to wait. We must act now.”

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