Yemen Girl Who Became Symbol of Humanitarian Crisis Dies at 7

Amal Hussain died in a refugee camp on Thursday after suffering severe malnutrition, her family told The New York Times

A seven-year-old girl whose photograph was featured by the New York Times last week has become one of the latest casualties of the devastating war in Yemen, the newspaper reported Thursday.

Amal Hussain, who became a symbol of her country's humanitarian crisis after being photographed by Tyler Hicks, died in a Yemeni refugee camp on Thursday, her family told the Times.

"My heart is broken," Mariam Ali, the girl's mother, was quoted as saying. "Amal was always smiling. Now I'm worried for my other children."

Speaking to The Takeaway radio program earlier this week, Pulitzer Prize-winner Hicks described how photographing Amal was "difficult" and "heartbreaking" but also "important."

"She really sums up how tragic and how bad the malnutrition and the starvation have really become in Yemen," the photographer said.

Yemen, one of the Arab world's poorest countries, has been embroiled in a devastating power struggle between the Saudi-backed government and the Iran-backed Houthi rebels for almost four years, with devastating consequences for civilians.

Last week, UN humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock told the UN Security Council that the war-torn country is in danger of being engulfed by an "imminent and great big famine" that could affect 14 million people, or around half of the population.

Lowcock said that the looming famine could be "bigger than anything any professional in this field has encountered during their working lives."

"Lack of food, displacement, poor nutrition, disease outbreaks and eroding healthcare" have also affected 1.1 million malnourished and lactating women, and if the situation continues to deteriorate, up to 2 million mothers may be "increasingly at risk of death," the UN Population Fund reported Thursday.

Fresh airstrikes

The Saudi-led coalition said it launched strikes on Sanaa International Airport and an adjoining airbase being used by Houthi insurgents on Friday, as the two warring sides also clashed further west in the country's main port city. 

The violence broke out days after renewed U.S. calls for a cease-fire that the Saudi-backed government suggested it was ready to support. 

Houthi forces were using the airbase in the capital to launch drone and ballistic missile attacks, a coalition spokesman told Saudi state al-Ekhbaria TV on Friday. Flights and international aid efforts were not affected, Colonel Turki al-Malki said. 

Al-Masirah TV, which is controlled by the Houthis, said more than 30 airstrikes targeted al-Dulaimi Air Base in Sanaa and the surrounding areas. 

In the port of Hodeidah, fighting broke out early on Friday in a southern district, residents and military sources said. 

The coalition had massed thousands of troops near the city on Wednesday, in a move to pressure the Iran-aligned Houthis to return to UN-sponsored peace talks. 

The sources in Hodeidah said fighting was heard in areas near the airport and the university, and Apache helicopters were spotted in the sky. 

Forces loyal to the Saudi-backed government have said coalition strikes were intensified on Thursday night on Houthi bases near the eastern entrance to the port city, which is a gateway to the capital, and in its southern part.