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Yemen war death toll set to reach 377,000 by end of year, says UN report

New UNDP report estimates that 60 percent of deaths are caused by hunger, disease and lack of healthcare facilities
A Yemeni pro-government fighter during fighting with Huthi rebels in Marib in November 2021 (AFP).

The death toll of the war in Yemen will reach an estimated 377,000 by the end of 2021, according to a new report from the UN's Development Programme.

The war, which is in its seventh year, has seen some 80 percent of the population, or 24 million people, relying on aid and assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need. 

Fighting has displaced millions of people within the country, while shortages of fuel have severely impacted the economy and services.

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Applying what is described as integrated modelling techniques, the report's authors say that 60 percent of deaths are caused by indirect effects of the conflict, such as hunger and disease and a lack of healthcare facilities.

Some 150,000 deaths were caused by fighting between the Houthi rebels and Saudi coalition-backed government forces.

The majority of the deaths are among children under the age of five, the report says, with one child dying every nine minutes according to the UNDP.

The Yemen conflict has escalated in recent months, with fierce fighting taking place around the remaining government-held northern stronghold of Marib, which has come under sustained attack from the Houthi rebels who control the capital Sanaa.

Forces backed by the United Arab Emirates recently withdrew from the suburbs of the strategic Red Sea port of Hodeidah, allowing Houthi forces to advance into several neighbourhoods of the city.

The war began when the Houthi movement seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014, forcing the internationally-recognised government to flee. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign to restore the government in March 2015, imposing an air and sea blockade on Houthi-held areas, which the rebels say must be lifted before it will engage in talks.

The Houthis have repeatedly launched cross-border attacks on Saudi Arabia using drones and missiles since the Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen.

Cuts in international aid to Yemen threaten widespread famine this year, aid agencies have warned. 

In February, US President Joe Biden announced the end of US support for offensive operations by the Saudi-led coalition, in a major policy reversal from the previous Trump administration.

However the Biden administration recently approved a $650m missile sale to Saudi Arabia which it says is for defensive purposes against Houthi attacks.