War-torn Yemen 'living hell' for children: UN

War-torn Yemen 'living hell' for children: UN
A top UN official said war-torn Yemen is a 'living hell' for children living there.
3 min read
04 November, 2018
30,000 children die of malnutrition each year in Yemen [Getty]

Conflict-ravaged Yemen has become a "living hell" for children with thousands dying every year from malnutrition and easily preventable diseases, a top UN official said on Sunday.

Geert Cappelaere, regional director for the Middle East and North Africa at UN children's agency UNICEF, called on the warring parties to join proposed peace talks later this month and agree to a ceasefire.

"Yemen is today a living hell - not for 50 to 60 percent of the children - it is a living hell for every boy and girl in Yemen," he told a news conference in the Jordanian capital.

According to UNICEF, 1.8 million Yemeni children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, and the lives of 400,000 severely affected children are under threat.

Cappelaere said that 30,000 children die of malnutrition each year in Yemen, while a child dies every 10 minutes from easily preventable diseases.

He said the figures were "a reminder for all of us to realise how dire the situation has become".

"We call on all parties to get together later this month under the leadership of the UN special envoy... and agree on a ceasefire and a road to peace for Yemen," he added.

The appeal came as fighting intensified in the key rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hodeida, despite growing international pressure to end a conflict that has left the country on the brink of famine.

The port is the entry point for more than 70 percent of imports into the impoverished country.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the war in 2015 to bolster Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi after the Houthi rebels took over the capital Sanaa.

According to the World Health Organisation, more 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict since 2015, but some rights groups estimate the toll could be five times higher.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday called for a halt to violence to pull Yemen back from the "precipice".

Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) said that at least 56,000 people have died in the Yemen war, a figure much higher than the 10,000 figure given by most news agencies.

Yemen has also been plunged into a humanitarian crisis with famine and disease threatening to smother the country.

On Thursday, the government said it was ready to restart peace talks with the Houthis after talks collapsed in September.

The following day, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a halt to violence in Yemen to pull the country back from a "precipice" and build momentum toward talks on ending the war.

The UN chief spoke hours after the Saudi-led coalition said it had attacked an airbase in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa and fighting flared between the Houthi rebels and pro-government forces near the key port of Hodeida.

"First, violence must stop everywhere - with an immediate halt around critical infrastructure and densely populated areas," Guterres told reporters at UN headquarters.

"Yemen today stands on a precipice," he said as UN aid agencies fear millions more could be pushed to the brink of famine in the conflict.

The UN appeal came just days after the United States, in a significant shift, piled pressure on its Saudi ally to end the war by calling for a ceasefire and peace talks.

"There is now an opportunity for peace in Yemen," Guterres said. "This building wave of momentum must be seized."

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