Six months of unremitting violence in Yemen have left at least 505 children dead, 702 injured and more than 1.7 million at risk of malnutrition, UNICEF said Friday.
According to UNICEF, across Yemen nearly 10 million children – 80 percent of the country’s under-18 population – need urgent humanitarian assistance, while more than 1.4 million people have been forced to flee their homes.
“With every day that passes, children see their hopes and dreams for the future shattered,” said UNICEF Representative in Yemen Julien Harneis. “Their homes, schools and communities are being destroyed, and their own lives are increasingly threatened by disease and malnutrition.”
UNICEF noted that even before the conflict, the nutrition situation was dire as Yemen produces less than 10 percent of its food needs and relies heavily on imported foodstuffs. But the escalation of the fighting has caused food insecurity to spiral and malnutrition to spike.
According to UNICEF, the number of children under 5 at risk of severe acute malnutrition has tripled in 2015, with 537,000 children now at risk, compared to 160,000 children before the conflict.
Almost twice as many children under 5, a total of 1.2 million children, are projected to suffer from moderate acute malnutrition this year, compared to 690,000 before the crisis, according to UNICEF.
Food shortages and poor access to markets caused by the conflict, reduced access to health facilities and sanitation, and the disruption of livelihood opportunities are the main causes for the deterioration. The scarcity of fuel, electricity, gas, water and other services and utilities is further exacerbating the situation.
Meanwhile, the last six months have seen a growing number of attacks on civilians and vital infrastructure. Since the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, UNICEF has verified attacks on or damage to 41 schools and 61 hospitals as a result of the fighting.
Finding safe water has become a daily struggle for survival for over 20.4 million people. More than 15 million people have lost access to basic health care; the education of over 1.8 million children has been interrupted by school closures; and more than 20 million people are struggling to get the safe water and sanitation they need.
Despite these extremely challenging conditions, UNICEF and its partners have been at the center of humanitarian operations since the beginning of the conflict. The response has focused on providing drinking water and sanitation, education and child protection services as well as treatment of children with malnutrition, diarrhoea, measles and pneumonia.
UNICEF and partners have provided 3 million people with access to safe water, while mobile health teams have helped deliver measles and polio vaccinations to over 5 million children. Some 93,500 children were treated for severe acute malnutrition and over 520,000 were able to take their delayed school exams.