SANAA (Reuters) - Saleh al-Faqeh held the wasted arm of his baby daughter as she took her last breath on Thursday at the malnutrition ward of the main hospital in Yemen’s capital Sanaa.
Four-month-old Hajar al-Faqeh reached the al-Sabeen hospital last week from Saada province, one of thousands of Yemeni children suffering from malnutrition in a country that has been pushed to the brink of famine by more than three years of war.
Her body lies in the same ward where another baby boy, Mohammed Hashem, died from severe hunger on the same day. His passing was witnessed by a Reuters photographer. Doctors confirmed both babies had died of malnutrition.
“She has spent two months in a hospital in Saada, but we had to bring her to Sanaa,” Hajar’s father said.
Saada province is a stronghold of Iran-aligned Houthi rebels who have been fighting a Saudi-backed government for nearly four years in a war that has killed at least 10,000 people.
Meritxell Relano, the UNICEF Representative in Yemen, said in September that more than 11 million children, or about 80 percent of the country’s population under the age of 18, were facing the threat of food shortages, disease, displacement and acute lack of access to basic social services.
The Faqeh family braved a dangerous journey along mountain roads where air strikes from the Saudi-led coalition are frequent.
“I worked in construction and I am also a driver. I do whatever I can but I am unemployed now,” her father said.
The United Nations says 22 million Yemenis, out of a population of 29 million, rely on humanitarian aid. Almost 18 million are considered hungry and 8.4 million severely hungry.
Fouad al-Reme, a nurse in al-Sabeen hospital, said Hajar was conscious when she came to the hospital but she suffered low oxygen levels.
“She was like skin on bones, her body was emaciated,” he said.
Writing By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by Angus MacSwan