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Yemen's war-weary children face 'new year of suffering'

Over 5,000 have been killed and an estimated 80% of population requires humanitarian aid [Getty]

Date of publication: 20 January, 2016

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Killed, injured and forced to become soldiers - the war in Yemen has wreaked havoc on children in the country, with millions left with a difficult and dire future.

The ongoing deadly violence in Yemen has left nearly 10 million children facing threats of malnutrition, disease and a lack of education, as the United Nations (UN) sounds the alarm on behalf of the conflict's most vulnerable.

The Arab world's poorest country has been caught in a conflict since March 2015, where a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been waging an air campaign against the Houthi rebels.

Both sides have continuously been accused of violating the laws of war and committing crimes against humanity.

More than 5,800 people have been killed and an estimated 80 percent of the population requires humanitarian aid.

"Continuous bombardment and street fighting are exposing children and their families to a deadly combination of violence, disease and deprivation," the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Representative Julien Harneis said.

According to the United Nations, more than 700 children have been killed, with more than 1,000 injured since last March. Additionally, about 700 had been forced to become child soldiers.

Continuous bombardment and street fighting are exposing children and their families to a deadly combination of violence, disease and deprivation
- UNICEF representative Julien Harneis


Children, who make up about half of the 2.3 million people in Yemen displaced from their homes, are also struggling to get water on a daily basis, and facing the risk of acute malnutrition and respiratory tract infections.

 

They are also without access to education.

"The longer-term consequences of all this for Yemen - which was already the Middle East's poorest nation even before the conflict - can only be guessed at," said Harneis, adding that "public services like health, water and sanitation have been decimated and cannot meet the ever-increasing needs of a desperate population."

UNICEF said that over 3.5 million affected people were provided with water and sanitation, with vulnerable communities receiving humanitarian cash transfers in the cities of Sanaa and Taiz.

"But so much more is needed. The children of Yemen need urgent help and they need it now," Harneis stressed, calling for unhindered access to areas where civilians are dying without functioning hospitals, where medicines are in short supply and children are at risk of dying from preventable diseases.

The children of Yemen need urgent help and they need it now
- UNICEF representative Julien Harneis

The war in Yemen wreaked havoc on the country, inflicting damage on civilian infrastructure, straining depleted resources and exacerbating an already precarious humanitarian situation.

Despite some progress in identifying a framework for negotiations and defining a set of confidence-building measures, UN-facilitated peace talks in December 2015 had to be adjourned until a ceasefire could take hold.

"Yemen is crumbling," the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, Peter Maurer, said. "The humanitarian situation is nothing short of catastrophic," he added.

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