Further details have emerged of an attack on a school in the Yemeni capital Sana’a at the weekend which killed 14 youngsters and critically injured 16 others.
Echoing condemnation of the attack, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday reiterated its warning that a child dies every 10 minutes from “preventable causes” in the war-shattered country.
On Sunday, a blast in Sana’a killed a total of 14 children who were in school - one aged just four - and injured 16, "most under the age of nine,” UNICEF spokesperson Christophe Boulierac told journalists in Geneva.
“More than 400 children (have been) killed and seriously injured since the beginning of 2019,” he added, noting that many of those injured in the latest attack on the Houthi opposition stronghold “are fighting for their lives” in hospital, while one girl died yesterday after succumbing to her injuries.
Also on Tuesday, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths, said that he was “deeply saddened to hear of the tragic deaths of civilians, the majority of whom were young female students attending school in Saewan area in Sana’a, on 7 April”.
Repeating his appeal to the belligerents to “make every possible effort” to end civilian suffering and “allow young Yemenis to grown up in peace and safety” by securing a politically negotiated end to the conflict, the UN negotiator highlighted that it was civilians “across the country who continue to suffer the devastating impacts of the conflict”.
'Students were in class' at lunchtime
Asked about the deadly incident in Sana’a, the UNICEF spokesperson said that it happened near two schools at “almost lunchtime” and “students were in class”.
The blast shattered windows, unleashing a burst of shrapnel and broken glass into classrooms, he added.
On whether the schools were located close to potentially legitimate military targets, Mr. Boulierac replied that he was “not informed if there is a military or any kind of potential target or potential military or official building near the two schools”.
Although the UNICEF spokesperson was unable to provide further details about the exact nature of the attack, he said that it came in the context of other strikes on civilians, including one in Hajjah, north of Hudaydah on 9 March, in which 12 children died.
Since fighting escalated in Yemen in March 2015 between supporters of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi and Houthi opposition groups, thousands of civilians are believed to have died.
2,642 children killed in just under four years
According to UNICEF, from 26 March 2015, to 15 December 2018, 2,672 children have been killed in Yemen and 4,371 youngsters have been injured.
Highlighting the ongoing violence in Yemen and the grave violation of children’s rights, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, Geert Cappelaere, said in a statement that one in five schools can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict.
Some have come “under direct attack while others are being used for military purposes”, he said, meaning that for more than two million children in Yemen, “going to school is a faraway dream.”
Over and above the threat from deadly violence, Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. The biggest killers are food insecurity and preventable diseases.
Nearly 80 per cent of the total population, 24.1 million people, requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection, according to UN humanitarians.
Ten million people are a step away from famine and starvation and 7 million people are malnourished.
“Children are also dying from disease, not only from hunger in Yemen,” Mr. Boulierac said. “A child dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes", including cholera, he added.