LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A month of “devastating” conflict in Yemen has killed or injured hundreds of children, and dozens more have been mobilized as fighters, the United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said on Friday.
At least 115 children have been killed and 172 maimed since the end of March. Most were killed in air strikes, and others by mines, gunshots and shelling, according to UNICEF.
Saudi-led coalition warplanes have continued bombardments throughout Yemen this week, despite Riyadh announcing that it was winding down the campaign it has led against Iran-allied Houthis.
On the ground, renewed fighting erupted between Houthi militia and forces loyal to the exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour-Hadi.
“There are hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen who continue to live in the most dangerous circumstances, many waking up scared in the middle of the night to the sounds of bombing and gunfire,” said Julien Harneis, UNICEF Yemen representative.
“The number of child casualties shows clearly how devastating this conflict continues to be for the country’s children,” Harneis said in a statement.
The total civilian death toll from the fighting and airstrikes since the bombing started on March 26 has reached an estimated 551 people, the United Nations said on Friday.
At least 140 children have been recruited by armed groups in this period and more than 20 hospitals and 30 schools have been attacked or occupied by militants, UNICEF said.
Health services in Yemen are on the brink of collapse amid critical shortages of life-saving medicines, oxygen and fuel, the World Health Organization (WHO) said earlier this week.
Limited access to safe water had led to a spike in cases of bloody diarrhea in children under five, while high rates of child malnutrition had also been reported, according to the WHO.
The Houthi fighters and forces loyal to Yemen’s former president Ali Abdullah Saleh have captured swathes of territory. Their advance toward the southern port of Aden triggered air strikes by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia to try to drive them back.
Reporting By Kieran Guilbert; Editing by Ros Russell