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UNICEF: Conditions Deteriorating for Children in Yemen

Relatives wait for news of their loved ones after an earthquake in Mexico City, Mexico.

UNICEF warns that children in Yemen are facing alarming conditions.

A new report by the U.N. agency says more than 500 children have been killed and more than 700 wounded since Saudi Arabia began its bombing campaign against Houthi rebels six months ago.

The group also says verified figures for child deaths and injuries in Yemen are very conservative and do not paint the true picture of the devastation being inflicted on this vulnerable population by the war.

Since the Saudi-led airstrikes began on March 26, UNICEF says the number of children at risk of malnutrition has risen to more than 1.7 million. It says nearly 10 million children — 80 percent of the country’s under-18 population — are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

Furthermore, UNICEF spokesman Christof Boulierac says the recruitment and use of children as soldiers by all sides of the conflict has sharply increased.

“When you compare 2015 and 2014, it has actually quadrupled," he said. "In 2014, 156 children were confirmed to have been recruited in armed groups, whereas in 2015, at least until now, the number has already reached 606 verified cases, according to monitoring and reporting mechanism. Children in Yemen are being used by armed groups manning checkpoints or carrying arms.”

Catastrophic situation

Boulierac calls the situation for children catastrophic. He says food shortages, limited access to health facilities and sanitation, and the disruption of livelihoods, are worsening conditions throughout the country.

Boulierac says UNICEF and partners are providing safe water to three-million people and have helped deliver measles and polio vaccinations to over five million children. But, he notes, this aid falls short of the enormous needs.

He says many children already are dying from indirect causes of the conflict. Since the situation is not improving, he warns more children will die from preventable disease than from bullets and bombs.