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The New Arab

Children in Yemen could become a 'lost generation'

Nearly 10 million children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Yemen [Getty]

Date of publication: 26 August, 2015

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The UN has expressed alarm over the dramatic increase in grave violations against Yemen’s children, warning against an uncertain future if the conflict did not end soon.

Children are paying an unacceptable price for the war in Yemen, a United Nations envoy said, warning that they may become a “lost generation” if the conflict did not end soon.

The United Nations (UN) Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui, expressed alarm over the dramatic increase in grave violations against Yemen’s children, where at least 402 have been killed and over 600 injured since the conflict started in March.

     Conflict in the region risks creating a lost generation of children, who are scarred by their experiences and face an uncertain future

This month alone, violence against children has increased dramatically. Saudi-led coalition airstrikes slaughtered at least 17 children in the city of Taiz, while another 17 were killed and dozens more wounded during repeated shelling in residential areas by Houthi fighters.

According to a United Nations analysis, the number of children killed and injured in comparison to the first quarter of the year has more than tripled, with 73 percent of deaths attributed to airstrikes.

An uncertain future

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, with its population relying on imports for about 90 percent of its supplies.

But millions are now trapped in the conflict, internally displaced and on the brink of starvation.

“Yemen has become another stark example of how conflict in the region risks creating a lost generation of children, who are physically and psychologically scarred by their experiences, deprived of educational opportunities, and who face an uncertain future,” Zerrougui said.

According to UNICEF, nearly 10 million children are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance – essentially, half of the country's population.

"Basic services that children depend on have been decimated," the children's rights organisation said.

The ongoing conflict has also had a devastating impact on children’s right to education, with 114 schools destroyed and 315 partially damaged. An additional 360 being used to shelter displaced families.

“As the start of a new school year approaches, the conflict is severely curtailing children’s access to education,” Zerrougui said, with an estimated 1.8 million children missing out on an education this year.

On August 20, a Saudi-led coalition airstrike killed 13 teaching staff and four children in the province of Amran, northern Yemen.

"The educators were gathered together to prepare exams for thousands of children who had missed the end of their school year because of this brutal conflict," UNICEF said.

"Working after hours, they had brought their children with them. Some of whom were playing outside when the bomb exploded. A selfless activity turned in a moment into senseless bloodshed," the agency added.

The heightened conflict in Yemen has also had a detrimental impact on ongoing UN efforts to strengthen children protections.

Yemen is one of the seven countries participating in the global "Children Not Soldiers" campaign to prevent and end child recruitment for soldiers by end-2016.

But as the conflict rages on, the implementation of this plan seems far from a reality, with an estimated 377 children already reportedly recruited during the past five months of fighting.

“The situation is untenable for children and their families in Yemen – all parties to the conflict must respect their obligations, and put an end to grave violations against children," Zerrougui concluded.

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