“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.”
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 UNICEF chief.
How long will we allow Yemen to ‘slide into oblivion?’
“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”.
‘Patience, good faith, consensus’ can break political deadlock
Addressing the Council at the beginning of the meeting, Special Envoy Martin Griffiths congratulated the head of the UN Mission to Support the Hudaydah Agreement (UNMHA) for achieving a crucial breakthrough in recent days, in line with the fragile Stockholm peace accord between the warring parties of last December.
The Houthis have withdrawn in a “fully compliant” manner, from the three key Red Sea ports of Hudaydah – the crucial gateway for most of Yemen’s humanitarian and other imports – plus nearby Saleef and Ras Issa, said Mr. Griffiths.
“We were never expecting the implementation of this agreement to be easy. But with the continuous commitment of the parties and the Coalition, the swift and decisive support of this Council and the stewardship of the UNMHA, we have seen the first concrete step towards the implementation of the Hudaydah Agreement”, he added.
Now, “concrete actions” must follow in terms of redeployments on the other side, and the UN allowed a bigger role in the ports or the Agreement “will remain in a precarious situation”. Mr. Griffiths said the country “remains at a crossroad between war and peace” with conflict intensifying elsewhere.
You can read the full article at UN News here.