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Yemen Crisis & Its Dangerous Impact on Youth

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 16 2015 (IPS) - The political crisis engulfing Yemen is depriving the country’s youth of food and schooling, warns the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

According to UNICEF, increasing numbers of children are suffering from malnourishment and fewer are attending school, as a result of domestic hostilities in Yemen.

In a recent briefing, UNICEF representative to Yemen, Julien Harneis, reported that around 900,000 children are currently malnourished, and 210,000 of them are suffering sever acute malnutrition.

Access to education is also a foremost concern facing Yemeni children today. The dropout rate is reported to be above 20 per cent, mainly made up of girls.

Harneis spoke of the “multiplicity of localised conflicts” impacting the ability of some 200,000 children to attend school.

Part of UNICEF’s work has been in building and refurbishing schools across the country where infrastructures and properties have been damaged and basic social services have not returned to their pre-2011 levels.

Adding to the weight of worry, the U.N. agency faces a pecuniary challenge due to a $60 million funding gap.

According to the U.N., approximately 61 per cent of Yemen’s population – almost 16 million people – is in need of humanitarian assistance, for food, clean water, and sanitation. More than 10 million people face food insecurity, 5 million of which are in a severe food crisis.

Children are among the worst affected. On top of increased hunger and decreased schooling, children are also at times forced to serve as combatants, and they suffer from poor health.

Disease is another factor threatening the child populace.

The U.N. has estimated that 7,500 children are expected to contract vaccine-preventable diseases. High numbers are already having chronic diarrhoea and respiratory infections.

The “biggest worry” related to vaccinations is whether the supply chain for the vaccine against tuberculosis could and will be interrupted, Harneis said in the briefing, adding that Yemen is a transit grounds for migrants coming from Africa, exposing Yemen to the possible reappearance of polio.

U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council last week that “Yemen is collapsing before our eyes – we cannot stand by and watch.”

He stated that the country’s president, prime minister, government ministers and other state officials must be granted freedom of movement.

The country attempting to transition into democracy has been further destabilised by clashes between secessionist Houthi militants and government troops, amid a takeover of the capital city Sana’a. Al-Qaida is also adding to the havoc on the Arabian Peninsula.

“Given these troubling circumstances, we all have a solemn obligation to live up to our commitments under the U.N. Charter,” said the U.N. Chief.

“We must do everything possible to help Yemen step back from the brink and get the political process back on track.”

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