Wed, 22 May 2019

Kids bearing brunt of UNSC inaction, says UNESCO chief

By Jay Jackson, Albuquerque News
16 May 2019, 04:10 GMT+10

NEW YORK, New York - Thousands of children are dying in war-torn Yemen, and it is up to the UN security Council to do something about it.

The situation couldn't have been made plainer when the council on Wednesday was confronted with exact numbers of fatalities so far, and an alarming prognosis if something isn't done to separate the warring parties.

"Fifteen million children in Yemen are asking you to save their lives" the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) chief told the 15 member-nations of the Security Council on Wednesday, reminding them that in four years of fighting there have been at least 7,300 children killed or seriously injured so far. 

"These are verified numbers. The actual numbers are no doubt higher," said Henrietta Fore, who began her address with a quiet intensity, telling the horrifying but tragically now mundane story of how one classroom was shattered by shrapnel last month in the capital Sana’a. "Imagine the pain endured by the families of the 14 children who never made it home...In any conflict, children suffer first. And worst," she said.

Each day, as a Yemeni Government coalition fights for control of the country against Houthi rebel forces, "another eight children will be killed, injured or recruited," she said, with a child dying from a preventable cause, every ten minutes. 

Around 360,000 suffer severe acute malnutrition, and half of Yemeni children under-five – or 2.5 million – have stunted growth, an irreversible condition. More than two million are out of school: "In short, the systems that every child and family needs, are failing," said the head of the UNICEF

"Mr President, we are at a tipping point. If the war continues any longer, the country may move past the point of no return...How long will we continue allowing Yemen to slide into oblivion?" 

Teams are working "round the clock" she added, treating 345,000 severely malnourished children last year, delivering safe drinking water to more than five million every day, and providing cash assistance with partners, for nearly nine million of the most vulnerable. 

"But this work only addresses the symptoms of the catastrophe in Yemen. To truly shape a better future for Yemen and its children, we need your engagement and influence to end this war on children. Now." 

Ms. Fore called for a redoubling of support for the efforts of the UN Special Envoy to "reach a negotiated political solution, one that places children first."

Only a resumption of full political negotiations, after a three-year hiatus, can bring the kind of comprehensive solution that Yemen needs. "These negotiations will require patience, good faith, and of course, concessions that go beyond what we have seen before" Special Envoy Martin Griffiths told the security council at the commencement of their Wednesday meeting.

"The ease with which progress could be removed is frightening", he warned, calling on council members to "urge the parties to work quickly" with General Michael Lollesgaard, who heads UNMHA, on further troop withdrawals. 

"These beginnings must be protected from the threat of war. We must not allow war to take peace off the table", he concluded.

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