Unicef: 10,000 Yemeni children have been killed or maimed since war began

A shortage of international aid and the Houthi seizure of life-saving assistance contribute to Yemen's crisis

In another grim milestone for the conflict in Yemen, Unicef says that 10,000 children have now been “killed or maimed” since the war began in 2015.

“That’s the equivalent of four children every day,” Unicef spokesman James Elder said on Tuesday, following a trip to the Houthi-captured north and the government-controlled south of the country.

“These are of course the cases the UN was able to verify. Many more child deaths and injuries go unrecorded, to all but those children’s families.”

The Yemeni civil war began in 2014 when Iran-backed Houthi militias seized the capital Sana'a, 120 kilometres west of Marib, prompting Saudi Arabia-led forces to intervene to support the government the following year.

Yemen is now suffering from a multidimensional crisis, from poverty and starvation to a collapsing medical infrastructure and severe water scarcity, said the government and international humanitarian groups.

As it stands, Unicef says four out of every five children need humanitarian assistance. More than two million children are out of school and 400,000 are severely malnourished.

Additionally, 1.7 million children are internally displaced because of the conflict and 15 million people, half of whom are children, do not have access to safe water, sanitation or hygiene, Unicef figures show.

Yemen has often been described as the world's “largest humanitarian crisis”. However, Maysaa Shuja Al Deen, a Fellow at the Sana’a Centre for Strategic Studies think tank, says that Yemen has also been dealing with the “worst international response” to the situation, due to the Houthi war effort.

“Our most recent research at the Sana’a Centre indicates there have been massive flaws in the relief operation,” she told the UN Security Council last week.

“A large part of Yemen’s population lives in areas controlled by the armed Houthi movement, which systematically seizes aid and uses it for its own purposes.”

The Houthis have been widely criticised for taking control of humanitarian assistance in the form of medicine, food and life-saving aid as it comes through the country's major port of Hodeidah.

“Meanwhile, there are other flaws in areas under the control of the internationally recognised government, such as the weakness of governmental institutions, bureaucratic obstructions and complications imposed by various militias on the ground, hindering the travel of relief workers and overall access,” Ms Al Deen told the Security Council.

Weakened by the war, the Yemeni government's fragmentation is also causing issues in other areas that affect daily life.

Last week, an official at Yemen's Water and Environment Ministry told The National that the government has “lost control” and is unable to carry out monitoring operations in the vital field of water security.

Mr Elder and Ms Al Deen, like many others, agree that the only way to win the war in Yemen is to end it.

Earlier this year, Saudi Arabia put forward a peace plan to end the war but talks between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis have repeatedly stalled.

“The bottom line: children in Yemen are not starving because of a lack of food — they are starving because their families cannot afford food. They are starving because adults continue to wage a war in which children are the biggest losers,” Mr Elder said.

Updated: October 19th 2021, 1:47 PM