By Benedict Mayaki, SJ
Ten thousand children have been killed or maimed since fighting started in March 2015 in Yemen, said UNICEF in a statement on Tuesday.
“The Yemen conflict has just hit another shameful milestone,” noted spokesman James Elder at a UN briefing in Geneva. “That's the equivalent of four children every day.”
The figure only includes the cases the UN was able to verify from a mission to the north and south of Yemen. Many more child deaths and injuries are not recorded officially.
Yemen’s dire crisis
According to the UN Children’s Fund, the conflict in Yemen – the world’s worst humanitarian crisis – represents a convergence of four threats: a violent and protracted conflict, economic devastation, shattered services for every support system (health, nutrition, water and sanitation, protection and education), and a critically under-funded UN response.
In Yemen, 4 out of every 5 children need humanitarian assistance (representing more than 11 million children), while 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, the statement noted.
Meanwhile, two-thirds of teachers have not received a regular salary for more than 4 years. Furthermore, the violence has forced 1.7 million children to become internally displaced and a further 15 million people do not have access to safe water, sanitation or hygiene.
The civil war in Yemen began after Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene and start a campaign aimed at defeating the Houthis, with logistical and intelligence support from the US, UK and France.
Tens of thousands of people have died in the ensuing conflict and millions more have been forced to flee for their lives.
Appeal for funding
"UNICEF urgently needs more than $235 million to continue its life-saving work in Yemen till mid-2022," Elder said.
"Otherwise, the agency will be forced to scale down or stop its vital assistance for vulnerable children. Funding is critical. We can draw a clear line between donor support and lives saved. But even with increased support, the war must come to an end."
"At the current funding levels, and without an end to the fighting, UNICEF cannot reach all these children. There is no other way to say this - without more international support, more children - those who bear no responsibility for this crisis -- will die," Elder warned.
UNICEF at work
Notwithstanding insufficient resources, this year alone, UNICEF has helped 620,000 children to access formal and non-formal education and provided vaccines, including a polio vaccine that reached more than five million children.
The UN Children’s Fund is also supporting the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in primary health care facilities and therapeutic feeding centers across the country; proving cash transfers to households; providing safe drinking water; providing psychosocial support for vulnerable children and providing healthcare services.