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Yemen war has killed or maimed over 11,000 children, says UN

UN agency estimates more than 3,000 boys were recruited into fighting since war erupted and is appealing for funding to tackle crisis
Yemeni children attend class outdoors in a heavily damaged school on first day of new academic year in Yemen's war-torn western province of Hodeida, on 17 October 2022 (AFP)

More than 11,000 children have been killed or maimed as a result of the war in Yemen, according to Unicef, as the organisation called for an immediate renewal of a truce.

Yemen descended into civil war in 2014, when Houthi rebels aligned with Iran seized the capital, Sanaa, forcing the internationally recognised government to flee to Saudi Arabia. Riyadh and a coalition of regional allies, chiefly the UAE, intervened in March 2015 to push the Houthis back.

Seven years of fighting have failed to dislodge the Houthis who control northern Yemen and about 80 percent of the country’s population, along with major urban centres.

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A UN-brokered truce collapsed in October. Since then, at least 62 children have been killed or wounded in Yemen, said Unicef.

Many of those killed have been from landmines and unexploded ordinances, with at least 74 children killed between July and September 2022 alone.

Though fighting largely remains on hold, Yemen is in a perilous humanitarian situation with acute food shortages, a lack of access to safe drinking water, and a fragile health system.

"The urgent renewal of the truce would be a positive first step that would allow critical humanitarian access," said Unicef executive director, Catherine Russell.

"Ultimately, only a sustained peace will allow families to rebuild their shattered lives and begin to plan for the future.”

Ceasefire collapse

Yemen’s economy remains in tatters, with a Saudi-led economic siege affecting shipping, flights and access to fuel lifted only recently as part of the ceasefire deal. 

The Houthi-led government in Sanaa claims that during the six-month ceasefire between April and September, the Saudi coalition allowed only 33 out of 54 ships bound for Hodeidah port.

More than 23.4 million people, including 12.9 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection – almost three-quarters of the entire population.

An estimated 2.2 million children in Yemen are acutely malnourished, including nearly 540,000 children under the age of five suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

The collapse of Yemen’s ceasefire risks rolling back some of the progress that has been made after the lifting of the Saudi blockade that prevented planes and ships from entering and leaving the country.

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Though fighting in Yemen largely remains on hold, there have been some flare-ups.

In October, Yemen's Houthi rebels attacked a southern oil port. Foreign weapons continue to pour into the war-ravaged country.

Earlier this month, the US said it seized one million rounds of ammunition along with rocket fuses and propellant being smuggled on a fishing trawler from Iran.

The UN agency also said 3,904 boys had been recruited into the fighting over the years, and that more than 90 girls had been given roles, including working at checkpoints.

Unicef has appealed for $484m in funding to tackle the humanitarian crisis. 

"If the children of Yemen are to have any chance of a decent future... all those with influence must ensure they are protected and supported," said Russell.

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