The U.N. children’s fund (UNICEF) reports 14 Yemeni children were killed and 16 others were injured by a blast Sunday near two schools in the capital Sana’a, the seat of government for the rebel Houthis. UNICEF says most of the children were under age nine.
Details surrounding the attack remain murky and need to be investigated. UNICEF says the deadly blast occurred shortly before the children were to leave their classrooms for lunch. Witnesses say the explosion shattered the windows and unleashed a burst of shrapnel and broken glass into the classrooms.
According to UNICEF, many of the children are critically injured and fighting for their lives.
The U.N. agency says the number of casualties is probably higher than what has been reported. UNICEF spokesman, Christophe Boulierac, says the blast is another reminder that even schools are not safe in Yemen.
“One in five schools can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict. Some came under direct attack, while others are being used for military purposes," he said. "For more than 2 million children in Yemen today, going to school is a faraway dream.”
UNICEF says this latest attack may further discourage parents from sending their children to school.
The Saudi-led coalition began bombing rebel Houthi targets in support of the government four years ago. Since then, the United Nations reports more than 2,670 Yemeni children have been killed, mostly by airstrikes.
The most horrific attack so far was on a school bus in the rebel-held northern city of Sa’ada last August. A Saudi-led military coalition said it carried out the airstrike that killed 40 children.
Boulierac says UNICEF is providing lifesaving assistance to affected children and families in Sana’a. He added that the agency also is providing psychological support, as well as covering the cost of surgery and medical treatment.