We're running out of time and money to help the children of Yemen

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By Mark Lowcock

Updated 10:29 AM ET, Wed February 27, 2019

Editor's Note: Mark Lowcock is the United Nations undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator. He last visited Yemen in late November. The opinions in this article belong to the author.

(CNN)I met an extraordinary little boy named Fawaz in November in a hospital in Aden, Yemen. At 18 months old, Fawaz weighed a little more than 4 kg (9 lbs). Severely malnourished, Fawaz had been in the hospital for more than a month, barely able to hold the therapeutic milk he was being given. Yet, he persevered, determined to live.

Fawaz's mother, Rokaya, was at his bedside day and night, as if in a silent pact with her son to ensure that he prevailed.

Yemen airstrike kills 22 children fleeing earlier bombing, rebels say Yemen airstrike kills 22 children fleeing earlier bombing, rebels say Unlike most severely malnourished children, Fawaz did not respond well to the two types of therapeutic milk normally used to treat such children. After weeks of unsuccessful treatment and several blood transfusions, doctors switched to hypoallergenic milk, which is more expensive and had to be paid for by Fawaz's family.

Without this milk, Fawaz would not have recuperated. But his recovery came at a tremendous cost for his family. Each milk tin costs about $30. For families who survive on a few dollars a day, this has devastating consequences. Medicine for one child means less food for the rest of the family; one less meal a day means a heightened risk of malnutrition for the other children in the household.

This story does have a happy ending. Fawaz won. He left the hospital on December 20 and has continued to recover.

But millions more Yemenis are facing similarly dire conditions. Some 85,000 children in Yemen may have lost their fight against starvation since 2015, Save the Children estimates.

Read the Op-Ed on CNN