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Yemen's Children Risk Death as Fuel Shortage Creates Water Crisis


FILE - A malnourished child lies in a bed waiting to receive treatment at a therapeutic feeding center in a hospital in Sana'a, Yemen.

The U.N. children’s fund (UNICEF) warns children in Yemen risk death as access to clean water runs out, due to import restrictions of fuel into the country.

Saudi Arabia’s blockade of humanitarian and commercial goods into Yemen is causing a crisis on many levels. UNICEF says the blockade is creating a severe fuel shortage, causing steep price hikes and deepening the country’s already serious water and health crisis.

People inspect damage at the site of air strikes in the northwestern city of Saada, Yemen December 20, 2017.
People inspect damage at the site of air strikes in the northwestern city of Saada, Yemen December 20, 2017.

UNICEF reports the cost of diesel fuel has doubled during the past month, jeopardizing the provision of water especially for the poorest families. It says water pumping stations serving more than three million people in 14 cities are quickly running out of fuel.

Spokesman Christophe Boulierac says prices of commercially trucked water, a main source for one-fifth of the population, have skyrocketed.

“For over two thirds of Yemenis living in extreme poverty, safe water is now completely unaffordable ... Almost 400,000 children suffer from severe, acute malnutrition in Yemen ... and they are fighting for their lives and the poor access to safe drinking water is one of the most important causes of malnutrition," said Boulierac.

UNICEF warns the lack of safe water and other vital services are having a serious impact on health care and sanitation for children. It says thousands of children are in a particularly weakened condition and are vulnerable to outbreaks of diseases including acute watery diarrhea and cholera. It notes life-saving vaccines worth millions of dollars are at risk of being damaged because they cannot be properly stored without fuel.

UNICEF is urgently calling for an end to the blockade. It warns the crisis afflicting the Yemeni population, and children in particular, will spiral out of control unless fuel and other life-saving humanitarian aid can freely enter the country.

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