As the conflict in Yemen enters its third year, families' coping mechanisms are being stretched to their limit, risking a total collapse in resilience. According to a new UNICEF report "Falling through the Cracks", more than 17 million people -- or 65 per cent of the population -- are sinking deeper into vulnerability, poverty and insecurity. The poorest country in the Middle East, and one of the poorest countries in the world, is facing an economic, social and humanitarian crisis as never before.
"Yemen is at risk of becoming a forgotten crisis, but there are millions of children suffering who we cannot forget, and who the international community has an obligation to protect," said UNICEF Canada President and CEO David Morley. "Thousands of children are being killed, maimed and recruited to fight, while millions more are starving and dying from preventable diseases. We have already allowed two years of war to pass. The world must act now to ensure a third year of fighting doesn't steal the lives and futures of so many more vulnerable children."
Yemen facing food security emergency
Yemen is now the largest food security emergency in the world. The number of extremely poor and vulnerable people is skyrocketing. Every second person in Yemen now lives on less than US$2 a day. Around 80 per cent of families are in debt or are borrowing money simply to feed their children. Families are in general eating much less, opting for cheaper food or skipping meals.
Zahra Al-Harazi is a UNICEF Canada Ambassador who grew up in Yemen and survived the Yemen Civil War before immigrating to Canada.
"We can't allow Yemen to become a forgotten crisis," she said. "Millions of children are suffering, from bullets and bombs, from malnutrition and from preventable diseases. They're being robbed of their education and starved of basic healthcare. They've already lived through two years of devastating war. How much more must they endure?"
Ten million children in urgent need
According to the report, nearly ten million children or 80 per cent of the country's children are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance. Other key findings from the report include:
• At least 1,546 children were verified killed and 2,450 maimed between March 26, 2015 and February 28, 2017.
• More than two million children are out of school.
• Nearly half a million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition.
• At least one child dies every 10 minutes from preventable diseases.
• One in two children under age five is stunted.
• At least 1,572 boys -- some as young as eight -- were recruited to fight or were used for support roles.
• More than two thirds of girls are married off before they reach 18.
"Let this not be the day we look back on and wonder if we could have done more to protect the millions of Yemeni children caught in crisis," said Al-Harazi. "Let today be the day when the international community decides to fulfill its obligations to keep every child safe from fighting, and provide urgent relief to the most vulnerable."
UNICEF calls for four urgent measures
Despite the difficulties in delivering aid, UNICEF remains committed and on the ground providing nutrition screening, vaccinations and other life-saving support for millions of children and families caught up in the ongoing crisis.
UNICEF reiterates its call for: an immediate political solution to the conflict; an end to all grave violations against children; scaling up the emergency nutrition response to prevent famine; and unimpeded humanitarian access for the delivery of basic services.
To help UNICEF provide life-saving assistance to the children of Yemen, click here.
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