Eight children 'killed or wounded in Yemen every day', despite ceasefire pledge

Eight children 'killed or wounded in Yemen every day', despite ceasefire pledge
The UN's rights chief has said that eight children are killed or injured in Yemen every day since December.
2 min read
20 March, 2019
An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since March 2015 [AFP]

The UN's human rights chief warned on Wednesday that children in Yemen continue to be killed and maimed at an alarming rate, despite a three-month-old truce in a vital port.

"Since the Stockholm agreement on 13 December, it is estimated that eight children have been killed or injured in Yemen every day," Michelle Bachelet told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Yemen's Saudi-backed government and Iranian-linked Houthi rebels agreed in Sweden on a truce that included a ceasefire in Hodeida, a key port on the Red Sea.

But Bachelet said children were currently living in 31 active conflict zones across the country, and witnessing "heavy, war-related violence", including in Taez, Hajjah and Saada.

The Norwegian Refugee Council said earlier this week that 348 civilians had been killed in Hajjah and Taez alone since the Stockholm accord was signed.

The UN rights chief voiced particular concern at the recent escalation in the northern province of Hajjah, where 22 people - 12 children and 10 women - were killed, and another 30, nearly half of them children, were hurt in strikes earlier this month.

Hunger worsening

Bachelet also warned on Wednesday that "Yemeni civilians, including children, are now more vulnerable and hungrier than at any time since March 2015".

She said more than 2 million children were suffering from acute malnutrition, including 360,000 with severe, acute malnutrition, meaning they are wasting away and risk starvation.

Bachelet's remarks came on the same day that the UN reported an insect infestation in thousands of tonnes of food aid near Hodeida. According to the World Food Programme, the supplies must now be fumigated before being given to feed millions of people.

"WFP carried out a full assessment of the condition of the wheat and laboratory tests confirmed it was infested with insects which has resulted in some hollow grains," said spokesman Herve Verhoosel.

"The wheat needs to be fumigated before it can be milled into flour."

Before the UN lost access in September the Red Sea Mills held 51,000 tonnes of grain, which was enough to feed more than 3.7 million people for a month.

However, Verhoosel said the WFP anticipates the flour yield will be "slightly lower" than normal because of the damage caused by insects.

An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since March 2015, when a Saudi-led military coalition intervened in Yemen's war to reinstate the authority of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

Rights groups say the death toll could be far higher. Save the Children has estimated that 85,000 Yemenis under five years old may have died of starvation.