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UNICEF: Yemen’s Children at Risk

A boy receives a polio vaccination during a polio immunization campaign in Sana'a, Yemen, Aug. 15, 2015.

The U.N. Children’s Agency says Yemen’s youth are bearing the brunt of a four-month-long conflict that is causing a humanitarian emergency in the Arab World’s poorest nation.

In a new report, UNICEF warns that nearly 400 children have been killed and 600 wounded in the fighting since March between Houthi Shi'ite rebels and a Saudi-led coalition.

Survivors face severe shortages of food, clean drinking water and health care. Many are homeless and displaced within the country and out of school.

In all, UNICEF says, 10 million children – nearly half the population -- need urgent humanitarian assistance.

Save the Children, another organization that has been helping Yemenis for decades, says children have been traumatized by air strikes and ground fighting, and many are homeless, displaced and have lost family members.

Mark Kaye is the group’s Communications Director. He spoke to VOA from Sana’a, where he said an immediate cease-fire is urgent.

“We need all parties to stop the fighting so that we can get into these areas that are particularly hard to reach and we can find those children, those families, who are desperate for humanitarian assistance and provide that assistance before it becomes too late," said Kaye.

He warned that there are at least 10 governorates across Yemen that are at stage 4 crisis levels – just one step below a famine.

Yemen only produces a fraction of its food needs – 90 percent of basic foodstuffs is imported. A virtual blockade of the country’s ports by the Saudi-led coalition and bombings of the Red Sea port of Hodeida, which supports the north and center part of the country, threaten to escalate the humanitarian crisis. Meanwhile, no political solution appears in sight.