UNICEF chief condemns Yemen’s ‘carnage’

UNICEF estimates that 2,200 children have so far been killed and 3,400 others injured in the war-torn country.

Yemen children
Fore, who has just returned from a work trip to Yemen said she was taken aback by the level of devastation that the three-year conflict caused [Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters]

The United Nations decried on Tuesday the impact that the war in Yemen has had on children where about 2,200 minors have been killed in instances where they were being forced to fight or died of preventable diseases. 

“Since 2015, more than half of health facilities have stopped working, and 1,500 schools have been damaged due to airstrikes and shelling,” said Henrietta Fore, executive director of UNICEF, the UN children’s agency.

“There is no justification for this carnage,” she said. 

Fore, who has just returned from Yemen, said she was taken aback by the level of devastation that the three-year conflict caused, regretting that “[many] had been taken out of school, forced to fight, married off, hungry, dying from preventable diseases.”

So far, UNICEF estimates that 2,200 children have been killed and 3,400 others injured but these only refer to the cases that the world governing body was able to verify, Fore said, adding that the actual figures might actually be higher.

A Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive in March 2015 – aimed at reinstating the internationally-recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi – has resulted in what the UN described as the world’s gravest humanitarian crisis.   

Beyond collapse

Fore said there were fears that Yemen’s healthcare and education would collapse, with international humanitarian aid the only option remaining to alleviate people’s suffering and avoid a full-blown catastrophe.

“The worry about collapse has now passed beyond that,” she said, pointing out that many health workers and teachers had now gone without pay for two years.

Emphasising the need for continued support, Fore said UNICEF was providing cash assistance through a joint initiative with the World Bank so as to enable people to acquire basic necessities.

Fore added that UNICEF had delivered some 50 tonnes of medical aid last Thursday through Hudaida port, destined for 250,000 Yemeni women and children. 

A major military operation is under way, with the Saudi-led coalition fully intent on retaking the strategic port city from the Houthis. 

The city’s seaport was responsible for delivering 70 percent of Yemen’s imports – mostly humanitarian aid, food and fuel – pre-2015.

Saudi Arabia says the Houthis, who reportedly generate $30m to $40m a month in revenue from the port, are using it to smuggle in weapons from Iran.

The Houthis – who seized control of the city in late 2014 – said that while they may be willing to share control of Hudaida’s port with the UN, their forces must remain in the docks and the rest of the Red Sea city

Fore said her agency was committed to continuing working with children and young people across Yemen but that ultimately only a political solution would bring an end to the conflict.  

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies