80 Percent of Yemen’s Population at Risk: Children Struggle to Survive

June 13th, 2015 - by admin

Human Wrongs Watch and United Nations & Mohammed Al-Asaadi and Ansar Rasheed / UNICEF – 2015-06-13 02:13:54

20 Million People in Yemen – 80 per cent of Total Population – Urgently Need Humanitarian Aid

20 Million People in Yemen
80 percent of Total Population –
Urgently Need Humanitarian Aid

Baher Kamal / Human Wrongs Watch & United Nations

NEW YORK (June 8, 2015) — Some 20 million people in Yemen — close to 80 percent of the population — urgently need humanitarian assistance, several United Nations agencies are warning, as the conflict, which escalated dramatically in March, continues to take its toll in what was already the poorest country in the region.

The World Health Organization (WHO) stressed that more than 15 million Yemenis do not have access to basic healthcare, with 53 health facilities closed and malnutrition increasing, the UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters at the world body’s daily briefing in New York.

Last week saw attacks on dozens of health facilities by fighting, shelling, and airstrikes in Yemen since the escalation of the conflict in March. In addition, 10 healthcare workers have been killed or injured while carrying out their duties since that time. WHO continues to appeal for the protection of health facilities, staff and patients. And on the education front, UNICEF says that 87 percent of schools in the southern five governorates are closed.

“Our humanitarian colleagues also say that there are more than 250,000 metric tonnes of grain in stores in Aden and Hudaydah, but that it can’t be transported due to lack of fuel and insecurity, nor be cooked because of a lack of cooking gas,” said Dujarric.

Without the full resumption of commercial imports and a safe environment in which to transport these goods, humanitarian agencies cannot meet the ever-growing needs of people to whom access is increasingly constrained, he warned.

Consultations aimed at bringing together a broad range of actors including the Yemeni Government and other stakeholders in an effort to stem the ongoing violence afflicting the country are set to start in Geneva on 14 June.

On Saturday, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon welcomed the readiness of President Abd Rabou Mansour Hadi of Yemen to send a delegation to participate in UN-facilitated Yemeni-Yemeni consultations. The UN chief had earlier called for a postponement in the consultations, which were originally set for 28 May, and has repeatedly urged all parties in Yemen to return to the negotiating table.

Yemeni Children: “Please Stop This War”
Mohammed Al-Asaadi and Ansar Rasheed / UNICEF

SANA’A, Yemen (May 6, 2015) — Seven-year-old Nada Nussir will not be going to school tomorrow. Or the day after. Or the day after that. And her 4-year old friend, Abdul Rahman, will never return to school at all.

“Abdul was 4 years old, and he was killed by a sniper,” Nada says. “I do not want to die like him.”

The pale, grey building of Ibn Sina School in Sana’a stood tall until few days ago, when an air strike hit the building next to the school. The impact of the blast crumbled the outer wall of the schoolyard and left classrooms covered in rubble and broken glass. The school, where 1,500 girls studied in primary and secondary classes, is closed indefinitely.

Conflict in Yemen has left many schools closed and nearly 2 million children unable to attend classes. UNICEF has verified that at least 30 schools have been damaged by fighting, exacerbating an already dire situation.

Even before the recent conflict, 1.6 million children were already out of school. Many children can be seen with serious injuries, missing arms or legs — innocent, unsuspecting children who were caught unaware by explosions, shrapnel or ricocheting bullets.

Thanks in part to UNICEF campaigns to sensitize children and parents on the dangers of handling unexploded ordnance, Nada and her friends now tread with caution and avoid anything that looks dangerous.

Lives at Risk
While Nada’s tragedy is reflected in much of the country’s new reality, another worrisome consequence grips the young boys of Yemen. Factions fighting on the ground recruit children as young as 6, turning them into either casualties or killers.

Fearless boys who used to play football in the streets have now turned into combatants. Some are coerced into fighting; others are driven by social, economic, political or religious motives to take up guns. Sometimes it is a complex combination of all these, but the end result is the same in any case: The child’s life is put at risk.

In the southern city of Aden, 13-year-old Nesmah reflects painfully as she looks at the ruins of the ongoing fighting in her area. “I am very sad,” she says. “The main road, the most beautiful area in our city, is demolished. The shop I used to buy school stationary from is burnt by rockets, and houses are destroyed. Buildings are empty. Ruins are all over. Please stop this war.”

With street fighting, canon shelling, snipers and aerial bombardments now happening every day, life for children like Nesmah and Nada has come to resemble an apocalyptic film.

The horror stories are easy to find in most parts of the country, where families, many of them displaced, can barely cope with the astronomical prices for basic amenities like food and fresh water, and the long queues to purchase a few litres of fuel, if they’re lucky.

If humanitarian relief doesn’t reach these children soon, the stories of Nada and Nesmah will have many tellers and many more takers, but very few actors remaining to play their parts. For today, these children stand scarred but resolute. They wait wearily in their dilapidated neighbourhoods, hoping to emerge from the rubble and return to their schools once again — once the fighting ends.

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