UNICEF official draws attention to plight of children in northern Yemen

26 November 2009
Children getting safe water from a UNICEF-supplied tank at the Mazraq camp in northern Yemen

Children in northern Yemen have little to celebrate on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, a senior official with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has stated, drawing attention to the plight of the youngest victims of the ongoing conflict between Government forces and rebels.

Children in northern Yemen have little to celebrate on the eve of the Muslim holiday of Eid Al Adha, a senior official with the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) has stated, drawing attention to the plight of the youngest victims of the ongoing conflict between Government forces and rebels.

“They are living in difficult conditions, away from their homes and schools despite significant humanitarian relief efforts,” said Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF's Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa.

“We continue to urge all parties to respect their obligations under humanitarian law and make protection of children a priority,” she added.

Ms. Kaag just wrapped up a three-day mission to Yemen, where an estimated 175,000 people have been affected by conflict since 2004, including those displaced by the latest surge in fighting between the Government and Al Houthi rebels.

According to UNICEF, the current crisis only worsens an already difficult situation for children and women in Yemen, where mortality among children under five is high at 69 per 1,000 live births.

In addition, some 46 per cent of under-five children are underweight and 58 per cent suffer from stunting. Also, one in every 39 women runs the risk of dying during pregnancy or child birth.

During her mission, she visited the Al Mazrak camp, which currently houses around 10,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), and met with mothers and children who have had to flee their homes and saw first-hand how the fighting has impacted their lives.

Ms. Kaag also visited Hajjah governorate, where some 40,000 IDPs have settled, to take assess the humanitarian response, and also participated in the opening of a second camp in the area to host mainly evacuees from Saada governorate.

In addition, she met with senior Yemeni officials to discuss ways to boost humanitarian assitance to those in need. In those meetings, she reiterated the call of UN agencies for immediate and unhindered access to the populations affected by the fighting, and for the creation of humanitarian corridors to provide urgent aid.

 

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