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SANA'A, 27 March 2017 – After two years of brutal conflict, families in Yemen are increasingly resorting to extreme measures to support their children, said UNICEF in a report released today as the war in the Middle East’s poorest country enters its third year.
Coping mechanisms have been severely eroded by the violence, which has turned Yemen into one of the largest food security and malnutrition emergencies in the world. Families are eating much less, opting for less nutritious food or skipping meals. Close to half a million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition - a 200 per cent increase since 2014 - raising the risk of famine.
The number of extremely poor and vulnerable people is skyrocketing. Around 80 per cent of families are in debt and half the population lives on less than US$2 a day, according to the report.
As family resources diminish, more and more children are being recruited by warring parties and pushed into early marriage. Over two thirds of girls are married off before they reach 18, compared to 50 per cent before the conflict escalated. And children are increasingly being used by armed parties as the fighting intensifies.
Yemen’s health system is on the verge of collapse, leaving close to 15 million men, women and children with no access to health care. An outbreak of cholera and acute watery diarrhoea in October 2016 continues to spread, with over 22,500 suspected cases and 106 deaths.
Up to 1,600 schools can no longer be used because they are destroyed, damaged, being used to host displaced families or occupied by parties to the conflict. Some 350,000 children are unable to continue their education as a result, bringing to 2 million the total number of children out of school
“The war in Yemen continues to claim children’s lives and their future,” said Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF Representative in Yemen. “Relentless fighting and destruction has scarred children for life. Families have been left destitute and are struggling to cope.”
The number of children killed in Yemen’s conflict increased by 70 per cent, and nearly twice as many children were injured and recruited into the fighting since March 2016 compared to the same period last year, the report says.
Citing United Nations-verified data, the report “Falling through the Cracks” notes that in the past year alone:
• The number of children killed increased from 900 to more than 1,500;
• The number of children injured nearly doubled, from 1,300 to 2,450;
• The number of children recruited in the fighting neared 1,580, up from 850 this time last year;
• Attacks on schools more than quadrupled, from 50 to 212;
• Attacks on hospitals and health facilities increased by one third, from 63 to 95.
Working with partners, UNICEF continues to provide urgent life-saving assistance to the most vulnerable children, including vaccinations, therapeutic food, and treatment for severe malnutrition, education support, psychosocial counselling and cash assistance.
On behalf of the children of Yemen, UNICEF is appealing for the following urgent measures:
• An immediate political solution to the war in Yemen. Parties to the conflict must work to reach
a negotiated solution, prioritizing and upholding the rights of children in the war-torn country.
• An end to all grave violations of children’s rights. Children must be protected at all times.
• An immediate and massive scale up of the multi-sectoral response to combat malnutrition
among children and pregnant and lactating women. Improving humanitarian access
throughout Yemen is a must to reach the most vulnerable.
• Strengthening family coping mechanisms by supporting the provision of free and quality
basic services - where possible at local levels - and the provision of cash assistance at scale.
“We need to act now to pull families back from the brink. The risks for generations to come are extremely high,” said Relaño.