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On eve of Eid holiday, UNICEF draws attention to plight of children in northern Yemen

SANAA/AMMAN, 26 November 2009 - UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Sigrid Kaag has just concluded a three-day mission to Yemen where she visited al Mazraq camp for displaced persons and discussed with senior Yemeni officials ways to step up humanitarian assistance.

“On the eve of Eid Al Idha, one of the most important religious holidays in the Muslim world, children in northern Yemen have little to celebrate,” Kaag said. “They are living in difficult conditions, away from their homes and schools despite significant humanitarian relief efforts.”

During her visit, Kaag met with senior government officials including Prime Minister Ali Mujawar, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Abdul Karim al-Arhabi, Minister of Public Health and Population Abdul Karim Yehya Rasa’e, Minister of Social Affairs and Labor Amat al-Razzaq and Minister of Education Abdul Salam al-Jawfi.

To take stock of the humanitarian response to date, Kaag visited Hajjah Governorate where some 40,000 displaced persons have settled.

In Al Mazraq camp, she met with mothers and children who have had to flee their homes and saw first-hand how the fighting has impacted their lives, health and well-being. With more than 10,000 persons in the camp, conditions are overcrowded and up to 10 families share a single tent.

Kaag also participated in the opening of a second camp in Hajjah hosting mainly evacuees from Saada Governorate.

Since the beginning of the crisis in 2004, more than 175,000 people have fled the fighting in the north and many more people remain trapped in Saada where humanitarian agencies still do not have access.

The current crisis further exacerbates an already difficult situation for children and women in Yemen. Mortality among children less than five years of age is high at 69 per 1,000 live births. Some 46 per cent of under-five children are underweight and 58 per cent suffer from stunting. One in every 39 women runs the risk of dying during pregnancy or child birth.

During her meetings with government officials, Kaag discussed UNICEF’s ongoing programmes throughout Yemen to improve conditions for children and emphasized the need for immediate and unhindered access to the populations affected by the ongoing fighting. She called for the creation of humanitarian corridors to provide urgently needed assistance.

“As the world celebrates 20 years of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the basic rights of children in northern Yemen continue to be violated,” Kaag said. “We continue to urge all parties to respect their obligations under humanitarian law and make protection of children a priority”.

UNICEF video and high-resolution photography for media organizations is available at: http://www.thenewsmarket.com/unicef

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

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




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