China / World

Children at sharp end of Yemen war

By Xinhua (China Daily) Updated: 2017-03-29 07:11

UN warns of looming famine as 'terrible' conflict enters third year

NEW YORK - As the escalation of the conflict in Yemen enters its third year this week, the top United Nations humanitarian official has called on the parties to the conflict to commit to political dialogue and resolve the situation or risk an unending man-made crisis.

In a statement issued on Monday, Stephen O'Brien, the UN emergency relief coordinator and under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, underscored that in addition to wrecking the country's economy, killing thousands and displacing millions, the fighting has brought Yemen to the brink of a famine.

"During my third visit to Yemen only weeks ago, I saw the terrible and terrifying evidence of looming famine," said O'Brien.

Underscoring that UN and its partners are already providing lifesaving assistance in all of Yemen's 22 governorates, reaching almost 6 million people every month, O'Brien urged parties to the conflict to expedite immediate, timely, and unimpeded humanitarian access as well as facilitate commercial activities - critical to reversing prevailing massive food insecurity and ensuring that people's basic needs can be met.


Nearly 19 million Yemenis, about two-thirds of the population, need humanitarian assistance and, according to UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, 7 million are facing starvation.

According to UN data, in the past year alone, the number of children killed increased from 900 to more than 1,500; those injured nearly doubled from 1,300 to 2,450; children recruited in fighting neared 1,580 (compared to 850 last year); and 212 schools were attacked (up from 50 last year).

Also, Yemen's health system is on the verge of collapse, leaving close to 15 million men, women and children with no access to healthcare. This is all the more concerning given an outbreak of cholera and acute diarrhea in October that continues to spread, with over 22,500 suspected cases and 106 deaths.

And there are little signs of the conflict easing, at least in the short term, with the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, saying last week that the warring parties were refusing to discuss UN-brokered peace efforts.

Nada Ahmed and her brother Omar are among the thousands struggling to survive in the Houthi-controlled capital Sanaa.

"Starving on the roads is much better than collapsing from hunger at home ... Our life is not politics," said Nada, 18, who begs for money outside a restaurant.

Her brother, 22, leaves the house at dawn everyday to walk tens of kilometers searching for recyclable items among garbage dumps in the streets to be sold to support his family.

Their father is a soldier fighting on the front line against coalition forces led by Saudi Arabia, who are attempting to reinstate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by Houthi fighters loyal to former leader Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Neither side has gained much ground and pressure is increasing on the international community to intervene.

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