Children are increasingly bearing the brunt of the violent clashes between government forces and rebels in Southern Yemen despite efforts by aid groups to help them.
The most recent clashes have displaced some 15,000 people; most of them children, bringing the total number of Yemen’s displaced at 300,000 since the uprising began six years ago. About 60 percent of these are children, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF).
“It is easy to imagine that this ongoing conflict is worsening the situation for children,” Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF’s representative in Yemen, told The Media Line. “The mounting tension is intensifying how much the children are being affected.”
Injured in the fighting, their educations put on hold, the children were innocent victims suffering from water shortages and malnutrition.
“Each of these military interventions has an extremely important affect on children,” Cappelaere said. “We are not here to judge whether interventions are politically correct, just to say that they have a huge impact on children.”
Nevertheless, Cappelaere tried to sound upbeat.
“We are, despite the dire situation and complexity of the working environment, still strongly committed to a child focused agenda.”
She explained that this cantered on ensuring proper nutrition and primary education for every boy and every girl. In order to achieve this, Cappelaere said, there had to be an environment conducive for the changes to take place in Yemen.
“One of the obstacles from a humanitarian agenda is that the environment is not conducive. We need a commitment and we need to have support from the country and from a developing partner,” she said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was one such organization partnering with UNICEF to aid Yemen refugees.
“In Shabwah (the region where most of the clashes are occurring) we are responding to the immediate urgent need of those affected by the conflict,” Rarabab Al Rifai spokesperson at the ICRC told The Media Line. “The ICRC is aiding those that have been displaced from their homes or residents from the area that have chosen not to leave.”
Al Rifai said their immediate priority was to provide food and clean water in the “dire humanitarian situation.” Second to this came shelter and medical assistance.
“A couple weeks ago, when we were providing water, there were around 4,300 displaced people and some of them had moved further south. After carrying out the necessary urgent care we put in 16 water points in the area to provide the displaced with urgently needed water,” Al Rifai recalled.
Recent attempts to get children back in school were thwarted after the class rooms were taken over in order to house more displaced people.
The United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) also expressed growing concern over the turmoil in Yemen.