UN appeals for $60m for Yemen children

Some 210,000 children in the strife-torn country suffer from severe acute malnutrition, warns UN children's agency

The UN’s children’s agency has warned of a $60m funding gap as it battles to reach 900,000 malnourished children in Yemen, amid the country’s rapidly deteriorating political situation.

According to UNICEF, some 210,000 children in the strife-torn country suffer from severe acute malnutrition, with few able to attend school due to ongoing fighting. Localised conflicts mean school dropout rates are now higher than 20 per cent in affected districts, the agency said.

Julien Harneis, UNICEF representative in Yemen, said the situation in the country had become “particularly worrying”.

The agency had been able to treat 160,000 children for acute malnutrition but lack of funds has left many more vulnerable. The UN has warned that Yemen is collapsing.

A Shi’ite Muslim militia seized control of the capital Sana’a in September, and continues an armed push across the country. France, the US, Britain, Germany, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are among countries that have shut their embassies in Sana’a and withdrawn staff, citing security concerns.

These developments, coupled with a burgeoning humanitarian crisis that has enveloped some 61 per cent of the population, is now a threat to regional security, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council in New York on Feb 12.

UNICEF has appealed for $60.1m to deliver micronutrients to 1.2 million under-fives, provide 560,000 children with health packages and provide safe learning spaces for nearly 750,000 Yemeni children.

“We want to reassure the people of Yemen that UNICEF will deliver, for as long as there is no immediate threat to its staff,” said Harneis. “Along with our partners, we will continue to vaccinate children, treat malnutrition, build and repair schools, and provide psychosocial support to children in distress.”

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that almost 16 million Yemenis are in need of humanitarian aid, with 5 million people facing severe food crisis.

Malnutrition accounts globally for 35 per cent of deaths among children under five, according to the World Health Organisation.

“It is essential that humanitarian aid is de-linked from the political situation,” said Johannes van der Klaauw, UN humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

Photo credit: Hugh Macleod/ IRIN