Save the Children warns of humanitarian crisis after Saudi-backed alliance launched a series of attacks on rebel-held Hudaida port city, saying more than five million children were at risk of famine in the war-torn Arab nation.

A Yemeni man carries an ill child as they wait to travel abroad via a UN-sponsored humanitarian air bridge, at the Health Ministry headquarters in the capital Sanaa on September 18, 2018.
A Yemeni man carries an ill child as they wait to travel abroad via a UN-sponsored humanitarian air bridge, at the Health Ministry headquarters in the capital Sanaa on September 18, 2018. (AFP)

Hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children could die if renewed attacks damage or temporarily close the key port of Hudaida, Save the Children said on Wednesday, after heavy fighting in the area resumed.

A new report by the UK-based charity said families were already struggling to afford food and transportation to health facilities as prices soared.

Save the Children said an extra one million children now risk falling into famine, bringing the total to 5.2 million.

"Even the smallest disruption to food, fuel and aid supplies through its vital port could mean death for hundreds of thousands of malnourished children unable to get the food they need to stay alive," said Yemen representative Tamer Kirolos.

Lifeline for millions

Hudaida is the main port of the impoverished Arab country, where around 8.4 million people are believed to be on the verge of starvation, and a lifeline for millions.

A Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebel group that controls the port has intensified its air campaign and resumed an offensive to capture it after peace talks collapsed earlier this month.

"This war risks killing an entire generation of Yemen's children who face multiple threats, from bombs to hunger to preventable disease - what kind of Yemen will there be?" said Kirolos.

More than 28,000 people have been killed or wounded during the war and 3 million have been uprooted, according to UN officials. 

Thousands more have died from malnutrition, disease and poor health.

Save the Children said a million more children in Yemen now risked falling into famine, taking the total number to 5.2 million.

Severely malnourished children are 12 times more likely to die from preventable diseases like pneumonia, measles, cholera or diphtheria, Kirolos said.

"(Children) are not getting enough to eat, they are being displaced, families can't afford to go to health facilities - they are losing their lives because of these attacks," Kirolos said.

Babies 'too weak to cry'

"Millions of children don't know when or if their next meal will come," said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International.

"In one hospital I visited in north Yemen, the babies were too weak to cry, their bodies exhausted by hunger.

"This war risks killing an entire generation of Yemen's children who face multiple threats, from bombs to hunger to preventable diseases like cholera," she added.

The Norwegian Refugee Council has warned that more people will be killed by economic problems than by bombs and guns after food prices doubled in some parts of the country this month.

Stephen Anderson, the World Food Programme's (WFP) country director in Yemen, said the "deteriorating" security situation in Hudaida threatened continued humanitarian assistance.

"WFP fears that the humanitarian situation will only continue to worsen, pushing families, and children into an increasingly desperate situation, which is not acceptable in the 21st century," he said if there is no end to the conflict.

Source: Reuters