Children bearing brunt of war in Yemen, UNICEF says

Nearly 400 children killed and 377 children recruited as child soldiers since the Saudi-led bombing began in March

Fighting in Yemen has killed nearly 400 children since the end of March, with a similar number having been recruited by armed groups in the conflict, the UN children's agency warned Wednesday

UNICEF reports that as of a week ago, 398 children had died as a result of the war to date, while 377 others have been lured into battle since the Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes in Yemen. But this death toll could be much higher, the UN has warned. Overall at least 1,950 civilians have been killed in the fighting as of last Friday.

“This conflict is a particular tragedy for Yemeni children,” Julien Harneis, UNICEF Representative in Yemen, said.

“Children are being killed by bombs or bullets and those that survive face the growing threat of disease and malnutrition. This cannot be allowed to continue,” he added.

The UN said that as devastating as the conflict is for the lives of children at the moment, it would also have terrifying consequences for their future wellbeing. UNICEF says that around 10 million children — half the country’s population, is in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.

On Wednesday, human rights watch dog, Amnesty International, said that all sides fighting in Yemen have left a "trail of civilian death and destruction" in the conflict, killing scores of innocent people in what could amount to war crimes.

The London-based rights group said the violence has been particularly deadly in the southern city of Aden and in Taiz, with dozens of children among those killed.

Yemen's conflict pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces including southern separatists, tribal fighters and troops loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis are leading an Arab coalition that is carrying out air strikes against Houthi fighters since March.

The UN human rights office said Tuesday that 1.3 million Yemenis have fled their homes.

Aid groups have called repeatedly for ways to get food, fuel, medicine and other supplies into Yemen, but tight restrictions imposed by the coalition on air and sea transport remain in place, while Yemen's exiled government accuses the Houthis of hijacking aid.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arab world, and its population relies on imports for about 90 percent of its supplies. Attempts at UN-brokered humanitarian pauses to bring in aid have failed.

The new UNICEF report also airs concern over the plight of pregnant mothers. It states more than half a million pregnant women in Yemen's hardest-hit areas are at higher risk for birth or pregnancy complications because they can't get to medical facilities

Al Jazeera and wire services

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