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Yemen faces a famine as deadly as Ethiopia's during the 1980s, says refugee council head

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By Euronews
In this Oct. 1, 2018 file photo, a woman holds a malnourished boy at the Aslam Health Center, in Hajjah, Yemen
In this Oct. 1, 2018 file photo, a woman holds a malnourished boy at the Aslam Health Center, in Hajjah, Yemen   -   Copyright  Credit: AP

Yemen faces a famine on the scale of Ethiopia’s during the early 1980s that left 1.2 million people dead, according to the Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland.

Speaking ahead of an International Donors Conference on Yemen designed to address a humanitarian crisis in the war-torn Middle Eastern nation, Egeland warned that 16 million people currently need aid in the country at a cost of more than $4 billion (€3.3 billion).

“I am shocked [by] what I have seen in Yemen,” Egeland told Euronews from Hajjah, one of the areas of the country worst hit by the conflict between the Houthi government and a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia.

“I met mothers with skeleton children. They told me that since food rations were cut by 50 per cent last year they could not breastfeed them anymore,” he said.

“I met a mother that said that she had [lost] five children. She had 14 children and there were nine left. One of them could not walk, she was nine years old and she looked four.”

Egeland said that if the conference did not raise the funds needed to address the crisis, “we will see a famine here like the world has not seen since the 1980s in Ethiopia.”

Ethiopia’s famine, which lasted from 1983 to 1985, saw 1.2 million die, 2.5 million internally displaced and over 200,000 children lose both their parents.

Humanitarian response

He called on the nations that had fought in Yemen, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and Kuwait, to join Europe and the United States in funding the humanitarian response.

"I will say that unless we get a doubling of the aid from last year we will all have the fingerprints of this famine that will come,” he said.

“We cannot allow millions and millions of people to die in famine in 2021. And the war has to end. “

US President Joe Biden recently ended American support for the war in Yemen, removing powerful backing for Riyadh and raising hopes that the conflict will soon be ended.

Saudi Arabia rejects the Houthi government of Yemen, which seized power from President Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2015, who was forced to seek exile in Riyadh.