By Robin Gomes
At least 8 children have reportedly been killed or injured in the escalating violence in Yemen in the past five days, the United Nations children’s fund UNICEF said on Wednesday, lamenting the conflict continues to take a deadly toll on children and families.
The battle for Marib
“More than 10,000 children have been killed or maimed since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015 – the equivalent of four children every day,” it said in a statement, adding, “the true figure is likely far higher”.
Yemen’s over 6-year civil war erupted in March 2015, with a pro-government Saudi-led coalition pitted against the Houthi rebels. Recently, fighting intensified in the central Yemeni governorate of Marib, with advancing Houthi fighters ramping up their pressure to take full control of one of the country’s main oil-rich regions. Pro-government forces are intensifying their fortifications around Marib city to defend their last northern stronghold. Trenches, sandbags and land mines are in place around the city, according to government sources.
UNICEF said 11 children have been killed or maimed in Marib in the past month alone. At least 29 civilians were reported killed or wounded in the province Sunday night when ballistic missiles launched by the rebels hit a religious school and mosque, Yemen’s information minister said. Women and children were among the casualties.
The United Nations says some 10,000 people were displaced in September by fighting in Marib province. It called for a humanitarian corridor for aid to the region.
Children pay the heaviest price
UNICEF Executive Director, Henrietta Fore, lamented that “whenever the conflict in Yemen flares and violence escalates, children are the ones who pay the heaviest price.” “Families are being torn apart by horrific violence. Children cannot and must not continue to be the victims of this conflict.”
The agency pointed out that “attacks on civilians – including children – and on civilian objects can violate international humanitarian law”. It called on all parties to the conflict to protect civilians, prioritize the safety and wellbeing of children, and stop attacks on civilian infrastructure and in densely populated areas.
UNICEF deplored that the latest surge in violence is exacerbating an already desperate situation for children and families. An estimated 1.7 million children are internally displaced and more than 2 million children are out of school. Nearly 2.3 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, while some 8.5 million children do not have access to safe water, sanitation, or hygiene.
To continue its lifesaving work until mid-2022, UNICEF urgently needs $235 million. The agency is supporting the treatment of severe acute malnutrition in 4,000 primary health care facilities and 130 therapeutic feeding centres. It has provided emergency cash transfers to 1.5 million households every quarter, which has benefitted around nine million. The agency has also provided safe drinking water to more than five million.
Following the outbreak of the conflict in 2015, the UN has repeatedly reiterated that there is no military solution to the Yemeni crisis and has called for a return to peaceful negotiation, through the Office of the UN Special Envoy for the country.