SANA’A – The United Nations Children’s Agency (UNICEF) sounded the alarm over the dangers faced by children in war-torn Yemen, calling for an immediate end to a long-running conflict that has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The call on Wednesday came as UNICEF held a ceremony in Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, as part of events marking the 30th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), Al-Jazeera reported.
“The children want peace and the children deserve peace,” Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, told a press conference, adding, “Together we will work to make sure (children’s) rights are fulfilled. That they can believe in their future in Yemen.”
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
Since 2015, tens of thousands of civilians have been killed and millions of others have been pushed to the brink of starvation. Health officials, meanwhile, are warning that up to six million children could be at risk of malnutrition if the war, currently in its fifth year, continues.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Nyanti stressed the significance of ending the war so Yemeni children enjoy their rights. She also urged all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law and provide the UN with unhindered access to children in need of aid.
Also present at the press briefing were five children, part of a group of 20 minors who earlier this month wrote a letter addressed to UN chief Antonio Guterres and UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore to demand their rights.
“We, the children who have learned about the Convention on the Rights of the Child wish to live in peace because we are afraid of war and afraid of the explosions. It is our right to live in peace and to have all the rights mentioned in the Conventions,” the children wrote.
Fore said on Wednesday she was “deeply moved and honored” by the letter, noting, “We want the dreams that you describe to come true. We all want an end to the war in Yemen. We are listening, UNICEF is with you every step of the way.”
In July, a UN report blacklisted the Saudi-UAE-led coalition for a third straight year, saying that it was responsible for the killing and wounding of 729 Yemeni children in 2018. Meanwhile, Elisabeth Kendall, senior research fellow in Arab and Islamic Studies at Oxford University, said two million children in Yemen are out of school.
Speaking to Al-Jazeera, Kendall stated that the situation was further worsened by a number of healthcare challenges affecting children in the Arab world’s poorest country, including a cholera outbreak. Earlier this year, UNICEF also issued a report highlighting the mounting cost of the war on the lives of Yemeni mothers and newborns.
“Mothers and babies are amongst the most highly vulnerable in Yemen. Every two hours, one mother and six newborns die because of complications during pregnancy or birth,” it announced.
Baraa Shiban, a Yemeni human rights activist and political commentator, said the international community should support local efforts to assist children in Yemen.
“The state structures in Yemen are collapsing faster than the international aid is reaching people,” he added.