Eight brutal years of conflict have devastated the lives of millions of children in Yemen and left 11 million children in need of one or more forms of humanitarian assistance, UNICEF said today, warning that, without urgent action, millions could face greater risks of being malnourished.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen stems from a devastating convergence of compounding factors: eight years of fierce conflict, economic collapse, and a crippled social support system affecting essential services.
The conflict has also exacerbated the ongoing malnutrition crisis in Yemen. 2.2 million children are suffering from acute malnutrition including over 540,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition – a life-threatening condition if not treated urgently.
“The lives of millions of vulnerable children in Yemen remain at risk due to the almost unimaginable, unbearable, consequences of the crushing, unending war,” said UNICEF Yemen Representative Peter Hawkins. “UNICEF has been here, providing desperately needed support throughout the past 8 years, and before, but we can only provide so much support to children and families affected without a lasting peace.”
Between March 2015 and November 2022, the UN has verified that more than 11,000 children have been killed or seriously injured. Over 4,000 children have been recruited and used by the warring parties and there have been more than 900 attacks on and military use of educational and health facilities, all of which hinder the realization of children’s basic rights to safe and adequate access to health and education. As these are just the verified numbers, the true toll is likely much higher.
Years of conflict, misery and grief have left up to 8 million people in need of mental health and psychosocial services in Yemen. With multiple threats and displacements, children and caregivers are under threat, often they resort to negative coping mechanisms like child marriage, child labour and in many cases recruitment into the fighting.
Similarly, the situation for internally displaced children continues to be of huge concern. Over 2.3 million children still live in displacement camps where their access to basic health, nutrition, education, protection and WASH services remains inadequate.
“After 8 years, many children and families feel stuck in a perpetual cycle of hopelessness,” said Hawkins. “Visiting a family recently who have been displaced from their homes for over seven years, you realise that for too many families, little of their situation has changed beyond the children’s faces. Children have grown up knowing little but conflict, providing these children with some room for hope of a peaceful future is absolutely critical.”
UNICEF urgently requires US$484 million to continue its life-saving humanitarian response for children in Yemen in 2023. If funding is not received, UNICEF might be forced to scale down its vital assistance for vulnerable children.
“The children of Yemen should be able to look to the future with hope, not fear. We call on all parties to help us deliver that hope by committing to the Yemeni people, and pulling a country, and a weary population, back from the brink.”, said Hawkins.
The funding gap UNICEF continued to face through 2022 and since the beginning of 2023 is putting the required humanitarian response for children in Yemen at risk, including access to health, nutrition, education and WASH services. Without UNICEF’s support, these children’s potential to survive and develop in the complex humanitarian crisis is significantly reduced.
Despite the challenges, in 2022 UNICEF was able to:
- Support the treatment of severe acute malnutrition for more than 375,000 children in 4,584 primary health care facilities and 34 therapeutic feeding centres.
- Provide emergency cash transfers to almost 1.5 million households every quarter – benefitting around 9 million people.
- Provide access to safe and sustained drinking water to 6.2 million people through a wide spectrum of activities including water trucking, the installation of water distribution points, and the expansion of water supply systems to Internally Displaced People’s camps. UNICEF also provides fuel to support the production and distribution of clean water to 36 Local Water and Sanitation Corporations in 15 Governorates.
- Provide vaccination against measles and polio to at least 2.1 million children who have little to no access to primary health care.
- Reach more than 478,000 children and caregivers in conflict-affected areas with psychosocial support, and over 5.2 million children and community members with lifesaving mine risk education.
- Reach more than 2.7 million people living in remote rural areas with access to public healthcare centres services.
- Support Mother, Newborn and Child Health (MNCH) services in 24 hospitals providing operational assistance, as well as equipment and supplies. In addition, through the support to 4,500 static Outpatient Therapeutic Programme (OTP) centres and 288 mobile teams, treatment and prevention of malnutrition services were scaled up.
- Over 538,800 children provided with individual learning materials, and more than 856,600 children have access to formal and non-formal education, including early learning.