‘Children urgently need our protection,’ warns UN child rights envoy as casualties mount in Yemen

Alarmed by the rising number of child casualties in Yemen, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Leila Zerrougui today urged all parties involved in military operations “avoid creating new risks” for crisis-torn country’s children and to adhere to international law.

Over the past week alone, 62 children were killed and 30 others injured in Yemen, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

“I am alarmed by the rising number of child casualties in Yemen,” said Leila Zerrougui in a statement. “Children urgently need our protection. We cannot tolerate seeing them victims of this conflict.”

Ms. Zerrougui said that the conflict continues to impact access to education and healthcare for Yemeni children and urged the protection of both schools and hospitals.

“All parties involved in military operations in Yemen must avoid creating new risks for children,” Zerrougui added. “They must act in accordance with international humanitarian and human rights law.”

In the past few months, the UN has verified an increase in the recruitment of children, notably by Al Houthi/Ansar Allah and other armed groups. The number of children maimed has also been on the rise.

Also today, the Yemen Humanitarian Coordinator, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, said he was appalled to learn of the killing of a volunteer with the Yemen Red Crescent Society (YRCS) in Al Dhale’e in southern Yemen, on Monday.

“Humanitarian workers are putting their lives at risk every day in Yemen to provide critical, life-saving assistance to millions of Yemenis. Their courage and dedication are unsurpassed,” he said in a statement from Amman, Jordan.

Mr. Van Der Klaauw appealed to all parties to the conflict to ensure freedom of movement and access for humanitarian workers to carry out their work in safety, as well as unfettered access to those in need. This includes allowing the free and safe movement of humanitarian aid supplies into and within Yemen.

The incident has been confirmed by Yemen’s Ministry of Health and humanitarian partners working in the health sector.

“I am also deeply concerned by reports of mounting civilian casualties and continued destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure,” he said, calling on all parties to observe their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and the means to provide them with access to food and livelihoods and other vital services.

The escalating conflict has put immense strain on health facilities. Some hospitals are functions at minimum capacity and medicines are in short supply. To date, the World Health Organization (WHO) has provided interagency emergency health kits for more than 80,000 people, as well as blood bags, oxygen cylinders with regulators, and IV fluids.

“Communities across Yemen have been caught up in attacks and cross-fire, endangering the lives and health of the young and old, and even people already displaced by violence,” said Dr. Ahmed Shadoul, WHO Representative in Yemen.

Hospitals in all affected governorates are in urgent need of oxygen supplies, medicines and supplies for treating trauma wounds, life-saving equipment and medicines, additional health staff and additional bed capacity. Due to the violence, there are also concerns about the ability of ambulances and other vehicles to transport injured people to hospitals to receive care, as well as the availability of fuel for ambulances and hospital generators.

The country’s second largest hospital in Sana’a City has been partially evacuated due to its proximity to a military base, and full evacuation is expected to take place soon. In some areas, where populations are unable to leave due to the violence, health facilities, including ambulances, are unable to cope with the number of casualties.

Article originally published on UN News Centre