Emaciated girl who symbolised Yemen's famine dies aged seven

Emaciated girl who symbolised Yemen's famine dies aged seven
The New York Times portrait of Amal Hussain fighting for her life on a hospital bed drew the world's attention to the human cost of the Saudi-led war in Yemen.
3 min read
02 November, 2018
Amal Hussain pictured at a hospital in northern Yemen last week [Tyler Hicks/New York Times]
An emaciated girl whose portrait drew the world's attention to Yemen's devastating humanitarian crisis has died aged seven.

With her ribcage jutting out and dark haunting eyes, the image of Amal Hussain lying on a hospital bed, published in the New York Times last week, summed up the desperate crisis in Yemen where a famine threatens to engulf the Arab world's poorest country.

On Thursday, Amal's family said she died at a refugee camp four miles from the hospital.

"My heart is broken," her mother, Mariam Ali, told the Times. "Amal was always smiling. Now I'm worried for my other children."

Times journalists first met Amal at a health centre in Aslam, 90 miles northwest of the capital Sanaa. 

"She was lying on a bed with her mother. Nurses fed her every two hours with milk, but she was vomiting regularly and suffered from diarrhea," Declan Walsh wrote.

"Dr Mekkia Mahdi, the doctor in charge, sat by her bed, stroking her hair. She tugged on the flaccid skin of Amal's stick-like arms. 'Look,' she said. 'No meat. Only bones.'"

The heartbreaking image by photojournalist Tyler Hicks was a stark reminder of the horrific impact of the war Saudi Arabia has waged on Yemen, brought under close scrutiny in recent weeks following the murder of dissident journalist Jamal Khashoggi, widely believed to have been at the orders of the Saudi government. 

Western powers have been pressured to end their arms support for the Saudi-led coalition whose drawn out intervention in Yemen has cost more than 50,000 civilians lives, according to rights groups.

Amal was discharged from the hospital in Aslam last week. Although still unwell, doctors said they needed to make room for new patients - Amal's deterioration being far from a unique case.

The family took the youngster back home to a camp where aid agencies provide some help, but it was not enough to save Amal.

She died three days later, on October 26.

On news of her death, an Associated Press journalist Maggie Michael described how Houthis - the rebel group fighting government forces and who control the capital Sanaa - had known of Amal.

After an AP report on Yemen's malnourished children, Houthis transferred five cases to Sanaa in front of cameras, but Amal was left behind. 

"Three cases recovered after getting proper health care which Houthis apparently can afford in Sanaa," Michael reported.

The US this week made an unprecedented call for Riyadh to halt airstrikes on Yemen, with the Saudi-backed government indicating it was ready to relaunch peace talks.

On Thursday, the UN said 14 million people faced the threat of famine, half of whom are children, but warned an end to the war was "not enough" to save all of them.