More than 370,000 children are at risk of starvation in Yemen, the United Nations has said, 15 months into a devastating war.
According to new UN figures, more than 14 million people, about half of the population, are going hungry and are in urgent need of food and medical aid.
Some 500,000 children under the age of five are suffering from malnutrition, with two thirds of them so sick they could die if they don’t receive immediate assistance, the UN said.
“At least 370,000 children are suffering from severe acute malnutrition,” Mohammed al-Asaadi, a spokesman for the UN children’s agency in Yemen told Al Jazeera on Wednesday.
“We’re talking about a 50 percent increase compared to the number we had earlier this year.”
Severe acute malnutrition is a major cause of death for children under the age of five, and is apparent when a child has a very low weight for their height and becomes visibly frail and skeletal.
Yemen has been torn apart by conflict since 2014, when Houthi rebels, allied with troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, captured large swaths of the country, including the capital Sanaa.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Since then, more than 9,000 people have been killed and 2.8 million driven from their homes.
The cost of food has skyrocketed since the start of the war, Asaadi said, with dramatic inflation in food and fuel prices leaving the poor vulnerable.
“The people are unable to buy food. Good crops could help the situation, but millions are out of work and countless more displaced. Until inflation is addressed the situation will continue to deteriorate.”
Taqwa Mohammad, a resident of Hodeidah, a Houthi-occupied city in west Yemen told Al Jazeera, that the hike in food prices was having a devastating impact on her children.
“I can’t afford milk or medicine for the children. If one of them gets sick, I can’t take him to the doctor, I borrow fever and cough medicines from the neighbours.”
Humanitarian groups have struggled to deliver aid to large parts of the country due to the fighting and air strikes, with the medical aid charity Doctors Without Borders, calling the situation “extremely challenging.”
Several medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed , with Houthi fighters repeatedly accused by aid groups of exacerbating the crisis by preventing the delivery of medical supplies to cities under their control.
On Sunday, the Houthis rejected a UN-brokered peace deal in Kuwait that would have required them to w ithdraw from the capital Sanaa, as well as the cities of Taiz and Hodeida and concede power to an exiled government.