Riyadh – After two years of war in Yemen, children continue to pay the heaviest price for the foolishness of Houthis and Saleh. Children are being robbed of their childhood as they come under attack day and night, and their future hanging in the balance now that several of them are injured, recruited, displaced, and deprived of education and health care.
Education in Yemen is severely affected as a result of the violence with up to 1,600 schools no longer being used because they were destroyed, damaged and are being used to host displaced families or occupied by the warring parties. Some 350,000 children are unable to continue their learning as a result, bringing to 2 million the total number of children out of school.
Communication Officer of UNICEF Yemen Mohammad al-Assadi told Asharq Al-awsat that the report focused on the family institution threatened by war during the difficult times the country has been going through.
Assadi said that sadly the more it takes to reach a solution, the higher the cost of the war becomes. He added that the war is affecting everyone including women, children and the elderly.
UNICEF released a report as the war in the Middle East’s poorest country enters its third year.
The report “Falling through the Cracks” stated that the number of children killed in Yemen’s conflict increased by 70 per cent, and nearly twice as many children were injured and recruited into the fighting since March 2016 compared to the same period last year.
It noted that in the past year alone the number of children killed increased from 900 to more than 1,500 and the number of children injured nearly doubled from 1,300 to 2,450.
In addition, the number of children recruited in the fighting neared 1,580, up from 850 this time last year.
UNICEF also said that attacks on schools more than quadrupled, from 50 to 212 and attacks on hospitals and health facilities increased by one third, from 63 to 95.
UNICEF Representative in Yemen Meritxell Relano stated that the war in Yemen continues to claim children’s lives and their future.
Relano insisted that: “Relentless fighting and destruction has scarred children for life. Families have been left destitute and are struggling to cope.”
Working with partners, UNICEF continues to provide urgent life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable children, including vaccinations, therapeutic food, treatment for severe malnutrition, education support, psychosocial counselling and cash assistance, according to Relano.
UNICEF called for an immediate political solution to the war in Yemen and urged parties to work to reach a negotiated solution, prioritizing and upholding the rights of children.
“The conflict must come to an immediate end if we are to spare an entire generation of children from starvation, trauma and destitution,” reiterated the organization.
The report insisted that children must be protected at all times, adding that: “The killing and maiming of children must stop.”
UNICEF called for an immediate and “massive scale-up of the multi-sectoral” response to combat malnutrition among children and pregnant and lactating women.
The report said that humanitarian access throughout Yemen must be improved to reach the most vulnerable.
The organizations also said that it is crucial to strengthen family coping mechanisms by supporting the provision of free and quality basic services and the provision of cash assistance at scale.
More funding is needed to prevent critical and basic services like health and education from total collapse, and assistance through cash transfers to families should be expanded to prevent families from having to resorting to negative coping mechanisms like early marriage, child labor and child recruitment.
“We need to act now to pull families back from the brink. The risks for generations to come are extremely high,” pressed Relaño.
Coping mechanisms have been severely eroded by the violence, which has turned Yemen into one of the largest food security and malnutrition emergencies in the world. Families are eating much less, opting for less nutritious food or skipping meals. Close to half a million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, a 200 per cent increase since 2014, raising the risk of famine.
The number of extremely poor and vulnerable people is increasing with around 80 per cent of families in debt and half the population lives on less than $2 a day, according to the report.
As family resources diminish, more and more children are being recruited by warring parties and pushed into early marriage. Over two thirds of girls are married off before they reach 18, compared to 50 per cent before the conflict escalated.
Yemen’s health system is on the verge of collapse, leaving close to 15 million men, women and children with no access to health care. An outbreak of cholera and acute watery diarrhea in October 2016 continues to spread, with over 22,500 suspected cases and 106 deaths.