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UN food chief recounts suffering of Yemeni children after trip

The file photo shows malnourished Ferial Elias, 2, as she is being weighed at a malnutrition treatment ward at Thawra hospital in Hudaydah, Yemen, November 3, 2018. (Photo by Reuters)

“It was just like tickling a ghost.” That is a remark expressed with desperation by Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Program David Beasley following his return from a three-day visit to Yemen, where he saw for himself the suffering of Yemeni children.

Speaking to reporters in New York on Friday, the UN food chief described his trip with disturbing revelations.

He recounted his experience of having tried to bring a smile to the face of a young patient in a hospital overwhelmed with malnourished children in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a.

The UN official also told reporters about a harrowing testimony provided by a doctor at the hospital who said that "every day about 50 children are brought to us," adding, "We have to send 30 home to die. We can only accommodate 20."

The fate of an eight-month-old baby boy was another tale told by the UN food chief. The baby weighed only a third of his normal weight and was brought to the hospital after his mother had driven hundreds of kilometers through military checkpoints.

“The little boy died yesterday.”

The Saudi regime and its allies launched a deadly campaign against Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall the country's former Riyadh-allied regime and crush the Houthi Ansarullah movement.

The Western-backed imposed war, which has so far failed to achieve its stated goals, has, however, constrained humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine to the import-dependent state, leading to a mass cholera outbreak and starvation from famine.

One of the principle targets of the Saudi attacks is the port city of Hudaydah, which handles 80 percent of the country’s food and aid supplies and was also recently visited by Beasley.

“That port has got to [be] protected at all costs,” said Beasley, adding that “we are prepared, if necessary, if all parties desire, for the UN to take over the operational capacity of the port. We are prepared to do that, we do not want to do that, but if that’s what it takes we will do it.”

Beasley is set to brief the UN Security Council on Yemen's humanitarian situation along with Mark Lowcock, who serves as the UN aid chief, and Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths next Friday.

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