More than 11,000 children have been killed or injured in the Yemen war, an average of four a day since fighting escalated in 2015, though the number is likely to be much higher, the United Nations Fund has reported. United Nations for Children (UNICEF).
The head of the agency, Catherine Russell, who has concluded a visit to the country, called for the urgent renewal of the truce between the government and the Houthi rebels.
The historic agreement was initially announced in April and led to a significant reduction in the intensity of the conflict.
However, another 62 children have been killed or injured in the period between the end of early October and November 30, UNICEF said.
Furthermore, at least 74 children were among the 164 people killed or injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance between July and September alone.
Russell visited a hospital in the city of Aden where he met Yasin, a seven-month-old boy, and his mother, Saba, for whom life has become a fight for survival.
“Thousands of children have lost their lives, millions upon thousands more remain at risk of death from preventable disease or starvation,” he said.
“Yasin is just one of many severely malnourished children in Yemen. They all need immediate support as basic services have virtually collapsed.”
During his visit, Russell launched UNICEF’s Children’s Humanitarian Action Appeal for $10.3 billion to provide water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services to children around the world affected by conflict and disaster.
Yemen remains one of the most pressing humanitarian situations in the world. More than 23.4 million people, or three quarters of the population, require assistance and protection. More than half are children.
UNICEF estimated that 2.2 million young people are severely malnourished, including nearly 540,000 children under five who suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
More than 17.8 million Yemenis lack access to safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services, while the country’s health system has been extremely fragile for years.
Only half of all health facilities are working, leaving almost 22 million people, including around 10 million children, without adequate access to care.
The war has caused immunization coverage to stagnate, and 28% of children under one year of age do not receive routine vaccinations.
The situation, coupled with the lack of access to clean drinking water, means that children are at extreme risk of contracting diseases such as cholera, measles and diphtheria.
Yemen is also facing a severe education crisis, with tremendous long-term consequences for children, UNICEF has warned.
Two million boys and girls are currently out of school, which could increase to six million if at least one in four schools is destroyed or partially damaged.
Russell stressed that if the children of Yemen are to have any chance of a decent future, the parties to the conflict, as well as the international community and those with influence, must ensure that they are protected and supported.
“That includes children like Mansour, whom I met at a UNICEF-supported rehabilitation and prosthetics center. His leg was amputated at the knee after being shot by a sniper. No child should suffer that,” he said.
“Urgent renewal of the truce would be a positive first step allowing critical humanitarian access. Ultimately, only sustained peace will allow families to rebuild their shattered lives and begin planning for the future.”