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UNICEF Regional Ambassador Mahmoud Kabil appeals for urgent aid to displaced children in northern Yemen

AMMAN/SANAA, YEMEN, 20 October 2009 – UNICEF Regional goodwill Ambassador for the Middle East and North Africa, Mahmoud Kabil has just concluded a three-day visit to Yemen where he met with children affected by the ongoing fighting in the North. Kabil visited Al Mazrak camp, in Hajjah governerate, some 20 km away from the Saada governorate where the conflict is raging.

"I saw children on the brink of death due to acute malnutrition and dehydration. I have never seen such a sight since I became UNICEF regional goodwill ambassador in 2003. Not when I was in Darfur five years back, or anywhere in this region."

UNICEF has screened over a thousand children in the camp and found that 10 per cent of them were severely malnourished and needed immediate treatment.

The escalation of the fighting in the North since August has uprooted more than 50,000 people and brought the total number of persons displaced by the fighting to 150,000 since 2004. Latest estimates from Hajjah governorate talk of up to 14,000 displaced persons in Al Mazrak camp and its surroundings.

The area lacks basic infrastructures and the influx of newcomers fleeing the fighting is continuous.

Lack of security has constrained access to the affected populations and UNICEF, along with other humanitarian agencies, has repeatedly called for safe corridors to deliver urgently needed supplies.

"I call on parties involved in the conflict to search their soul and conscience", said Kabil. "The death and suffering of these children is killing your future and that of your country.”

In addition to the displaced, thousands more people remain trapped in the governorate of Saada where most of the hostilities are taking place, with barely any humanitarian assistance. Women and children continue to bear the brunt of this conflict.

Earlier, Mahmoud Kabil met with the Minister of Social Affairs and Labour and the Minister of Health and Population, as well as with the governor of Hajjah to discuss the current crisis and its impact on humanitarian and development efforts in Yemen.

Note to the editor:
UNICEF's focus in support of internally displaced person includes the provision of safe drinking water, hygiene and sanitation, protection of children as well as educational support and nutrition. UNICEF has appealed for over 6 million dollars. Only 30 per cent has been received so far.

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.

For further information, please contact:
Abdel-Rahman Ghandour, UNICEF Regional Office for the Middle East and North Africa,
Tel + 962-79-700-4567,
E-mail: arghandour@unicef.org

Naseem-Ur-Rehman, UNICEF Yemen,
Tel + 967-711-760-002,
E-mail: nrehman@unicef.org




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