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UNICEF: Thousands of Yemeni Children Dying Due to Conflict

  • Lisa Schlein

In this Tuesday, March 22, 2016 photo, Udai Faisal, who is suffering acute malnutrition is fed by his mother Intissar Hezzam at al-Sabeen Hospital in Sana'a, Yemen. Hunger has been the most horrific consequence of Yemen’s conflict and has spiraled since Saudi Arabia and its allies, backed by the U.S., launched a campaign of airstrikes and a naval blockade a year ago.

In this Tuesday, March 22, 2016 photo, Udai Faisal, who is suffering acute malnutrition is fed by his mother Intissar Hezzam at al-Sabeen Hospital in Sana'a, Yemen. Hunger has been the most horrific consequence of Yemen’s conflict and has spiraled since Saudi Arabia and its allies, backed by the U.S., launched a campaign of airstrikes and a naval blockade a year ago.

A report finds thousands of children in Yemen are dying from direct and indirect causes of the brutal year-long war. The U.N. Children’s Fund says the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation is devastating their lives.

Yemen has been at war with itself for years; but, the entry of Saudi Arabia into the ongoing civil war one year ago has raised the level of fighting to a scale never before seen.

The U.N. Children's Fund describes the airstrikes by the government-supported, Saudi-led coalition against the Houthi rebels as indiscriminate and disproportionate. Speaking from the capital, Sana’a, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, Julien Harneis, says the escalating war is taking a particularly heavy toll on children.

Airstrikes

Harneis says more than 900 children have been killed and around 1,300 wounded in the past year alone. He says airstrikes account for 61 percent of the deaths and injuries.

FILE - Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, inspects damage at a hospital in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz, Jan. 21, 2016.

FILE - Resident Coordinator of the United Nations in Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, inspects damage at a hospital in Yemen's southwestern city of Taiz, Jan. 21, 2016.

He tells VOA a far greater concern is the deaths of nearly 10,000 children under 5 from preventable diseases due to the collapse of the country’s health system.

“When you consider the 2,290 for children under 18, whereas the 10,000 is for children under five, then the death toll that is due to disease that would completely be avoidable," he said. "Those children would never have died had it not been for this war. That is our far greatest concern.”

Hunger, malnutrition

Harneis says the decline in health services means children are not being immunized against killer diseases or being treated for diarrhea, pneumonia and other illnesses. He says nearly 10 million children, or 80 percent of all of Yemen’s children, are in need of urgent humanitarian aid. This includes 320,000 children at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

A woman sits next to her malnourished baby at a therapeutic feeding center in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 24, 2016.

A woman sits next to her malnourished baby at a therapeutic feeding center in a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 24, 2016.

UNICEF reports a massive increase in the recruitment and use of child soldiers as the fighting continues to intensify. The agency has verified 848 cases of children, some as young as 10, being drafted by all the warring parties.

It says 380,000 children are unable to get an education because 1,600 schools are damaged or destroyed or lack security. UNICEF warns Yemen risks becoming a failed state if the war is not brought to an end. It says the consequences for children and their families would be far-reaching and terrible were this to happen.

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