Yemen was already the Middle East’s poorest country - a place where children were 12 times more likely to die before their fifth birthdays than in Australia. Then, in March 2015, violence escalated into a brutal war that has plunged most of the country’s children into crisis.
Conflict left the southern cities of Aden and Taiz in ruins, wrecked the northern city of Sa’ada and damaged many other areas. When bombs hit residential areas, civilian deaths are inevitable. Last year, Yemen had the third highest number of civilian deaths and injuries of any conflict in the world.
At least six children are killed or injured every day in Yemen’s conflict. They’re collateral damage. They’re even targets of war. They’re recruited to fight at as young as ten years old.
But for Yemen’s children violence is just the beginning. Parties to the conflict have bombed critical ports, roads, bridges and factories, severing imports and making local production of supplies near impossible. Naval and aerial blockades have almost cut off humanitarian aid and prevented entire communities from accessing their rights to food, water and medicines.
UNICEF teams are doing everything possible to overcome these obstacles: setting up new supply hubs, using local sailing vessels and chartered flights and working with local partners to reach children cut off from humanitarian access.
But the very things children need to survive have become weapons used against them. And surviving has become a lot harder than dodging bullets and bombs.
The cries of malnourished children echo through hospitals and houses as their bodies contract, their lungs weaken and as their hearts struggle to beat. Malnutrition stunts a child’s growth and intellectual development, trapping them years behind their potential.
“I would sell everything I have to ensure my children’s well being,” says one mother.
When her 18-month-old son developed severe acute malnutrition she gave up what land she had to provide for him and his siblings. But Faisal’s malnutrition worsened, dropping in weight from twelve kilograms to just five, so his mother braved a dangerous two-day journey to the nearest hospital.
“Nowhere is safe, even here at the hospital. I just hope that my son gets better soon.”
There are almost 500,000 of these children with severe acute malnutrition in Yemen. Our team on the ground is going above and beyond to stop this crisis turning to famine. In a five-day nationwide campaign in September 2016, UNICEF mobilised thousands of health workers to reach the vulnerable children and new mothers missing out on care. Traveling in cars, on motorcycles, by donkey or on foot, mobile teams reached more than 600,000 children under five in remote areas with malnutrition screening and micronutrients.
There’s so much left to do to stop starvation from killing Yemen’s children. Parts of the country are just a step away from famine. UNICEF is working to reach 323,000 children with urgent treatment for the deadliest kind of malnutrition - but we’ll rely on emergency gifts from generous donors to make it happen.
Water is one of the most fundamental tensions underpinning Yemen’s conflict. The country was already amongst the most water-scarce places in the world. Just over half the population had regular access to a safe drinking source in 2012, and one-third of women and girls spent more than 90 minutes every day fetching water.
Conflict has deepened this water shortage into a crisis. UNICEF estimates over 14.4 million people, including many children, are at risk every day without safe drinking water and sanitation facilities.
That’s why our teams in Yemen are going to incredible lengths to bring safe water to children: restoring broken infrastructure, reaching rural communities with water and testing renewable technologies to power water and sanitation facilities.
We helped provide more than 3.1 million people with clean water in 2016 and with the help of UNICEF supporters we’ll reach more everyday.
Communities are relying on unsafe water to survive and, as the health care system collapses, preventable diseases are killing more children than guns and bombs. Every ten minutes, a parent in Yemen loses their child to a preventable disease like malnutrition, diarrhoea or cholera.
Since late 2016, Yemen has been in the grip of a fast-spreading cholera outbreak. More than 53,000 cases were reported in April 2017 alone. UNICEF is on the ground in the hardest hit areas chlorinating water sources, delivering hygiene kits and teaching families how to stay safe.
UNICEF is working tirelessly to protect children from disease in Yemen. We’re filling gaps in the healthcare system with emergency clinics, mobile health teams and nationwide vaccination campaigns. We’re training doctors and health workers, delivering tonnes of medicine and supplies and helping save lives every day.
Today, Yemen is one of the worst places to be a child. Every loss of a child’s home, family or life is unacceptable. Nothing but immediate and lasting peace will guarantee children can survive, recover and grow.
UNICEF is calling for an end to this brutal conflict. But every day the fighting continues, we’ll desperately need help saving children from malnutrition and waterborne diseases. Without more emergency supplies, our best efforts will not be enough.
UNICEF is not giving up on these children. We’re doing everything possible to save lives and rebuild opportunities for a better future.
UNICEF is on the ground in Yemen working around the clock to protect children. It’s one of four countries where children are facing the deadly prospect of famine. Nearly 1.4 million children across Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia are severely malnourished.
We can’t wait to act for these children. We have a small window to prevent a massive loss of life.
Our teams are treating severely malnourished children with therapeutic food - a peanut paste specially formulated with the micronutrients children need to survive and grow. We’re supporting mobile health clinics to reach children in remote communities with life-saving medical care and immunisations. We’re providing safe water, sanitation and hygiene supplies to stop the spread of disease.
Time is running out. UNICEF needs you now. Help us reach further, faster and save a child’s life. Please give generously.