UNICEF report: Yemen's children on the brink as country risks becoming a failed state

Nearly six children are killed or injured every day and children as young as ten years old recruited to fight

SANA'A, YE, AMMAN, JO and TORONTO, March 29, 2016 /CNW/ - A brutal conflict and a fast-deteriorating humanitarian situation are devastating the lives of Yemeni children and have brought the country to the point of collapse, according to a UNICEF report released today, Childhood on the Brink.

The report highlights the heavy toll the violence is having on children and the deterioration of an already precarious humanitarian situation.

In the past year, an average of six children have been killed or injured per day. UNICEF was able to verify 1,500 grave violations of children's rights. According to the report, more than 900 children have been killed and more than 1,300 injured in the past year alone. These numbers are almost seven times higher than the whole of 2014. Children have been killed while at school or on their way to or from school. UNICEF verified 51 attacks on schools in the last year.

The actual number of all violations against children in Yemen is likely to be much higher.

"Spaces that were once safe for children – schools, parks, backyards – are now under siege," says David Morley, President and CEO of UNICEF Canada. "Hospitals have been destroyed. Children have been recruited to fight. Childhoods are being lost every second of every day, and that is something these children can never get back."

Child recruitment on the rise

As the war escalates, the recruitment and use of children in the fighting has sharply increased. Children are taking up a much more active role, they man checkpoints and carry weapons. In the past year, UNICEF was able to verify 848 cases of child recruitment. Children as young as ten years old were recruited into the fighting.

According to latest data, 63 health facilities have been attacked or damaged and most health facilities have reported severe shortages in medical equipment, supplies and personnel, along with sporadic electricity. 

"Nothing justifies attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, a pattern that is replicated in conflicts across the region and in blatant violation of international humanitarian law," says Dr. Peter Salama, Regional Director for UNICEF Middle East and North Africa.

Across Yemen, much-needed basic services have been paralyzed as the inflow of fuel, water and food resources has been severely disrupted by the ongoing conflict.

UNICEF estimates that nearly 10,000 children under five years old may have died in the past year from preventable diseases as a result of the decline in key health services including immunization and the treatment of diarrhoea and pneumonia, among others. This is in addition to nearly 40,000 children under five who died every year in Yemen before the conflict began.

Ten million children in urgent need

The poorest country in the region and already one of the poorest in the world, Yemen has been pushed to the brink by the devastation of the past year. Nearly ten million children or 80 per cent of the country's children are now in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. More than two million children face the threat of diarrhoeal diseases and 320,000 are at risk of severe acute malnutrition.

"Yemen was already a fragile state due to intermittent conflicts and underdevelopment and children have been the most affected. Without an end to the war, the country risks becoming a failed state with far reaching consequences," Dr. Salama says.

Despite violence, access restrictions and severe funding shortages, UNICEF and partners were able to provide nutrition screening and vaccinations for millions of children and women caught up in the ongoing crisis.

"We will not be deterred by conflict, but the future of an entire generation of children is at risk if we do not collectively speed up our support – both on the humanitarian and political fronts," says Morley. "Let us act now so that we can look forward with hope to a brighter future for these children and for all of Yemen."

UNICEF calls for four urgent measures

UNICEF reiterates its call to all parties to the conflict to put an end to fighting in Yemen and reach a political settlement. While the search for peace continues, urgent measures are needed:

  • All parties to the conflict should abide by the laws of war, and immediately stop attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, including schools, health and water facilities;
  • All parties should put an end to the recruitment and use of children in the fighting. All children recruited to combat and non-combat roles should be immediately released;
  • All parties should provide unhindered and unconditional humanitarian access to all children wherever they are in the country, including areas cut off by conflict;
  • UNICEF and its partners urgently need to secure funding. To date UNICEF has received only 18 per cent of its $180 million funding requirement for 2016.

Note to Editors

Broadcast quality photos and b-roll available here.

UNICEF has saved more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, nutrition and food security, education, emergency relief and more in developing countries.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries - more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.


Image with caption: "On July 30, 2015, two-year-old Hanadi was admitted to Sabeen Hospital in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, for treatment. She is malnourished, weak and can’t walk. Her mother says since the conflict escalated, the family has mainly survived on bread whenever they can find it. © UNICEF/UNI191720/Yasin (CNW Group/UNICEF Canada)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20160329_C2871_PHOTO_EN_652097.jpg

For further information: Stefanie Carmichael, UNICEF Canada, 416-482-6552 ext. 8866; 647-500-4320 (mobile), scarmichael@unicef.ca


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