Henrietta Fore, UNICEF’s Executive Director, also appealed to the international community to step up and provide urgently needed funds for aid programmes.
“There is no time to waste. Children in Yemen need peace. An end to this brutal conflict is the only way they can fulfil their potential, resume their childhood and, ultimately, rebuild their country,” she said in a statement on Monday.
Ms. Fore also repeated the call on all parties to the conflict to ensure children are protected and that unhindered access to communities in need is ensured.
There is no time to waste. Children in Yemen need peace. An end to this brutal conflict is the only way…
– Henrietta Fore
On Friday, Secretary-General António Guterres also voiced deep concern over the situation in Yemen, calling for urgent action on the part of the international community to “stave off catastrophe”.
World’s worst humanitarian crisis
Yemen remains the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, the result of five years of a brutal conflict, disease, economic collapse and a breakdown of public institutions and services. A staggering 80 per cent of the country’s population – over 24 million people – require some form of humanitarian assistance and protection, including more than 12 million children.
The situation has worsened dramatically with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic earlier this year.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has turned a deep crisis into an imminent catastrophe,” said Ms. Fore
According to UNICEF, with the pandemic spreading, Yemen is facing an “emergency within an emergency”. Sanitation and clean water are in short supply, and only half of health facilities are functioning. Many that remain operational lack basic equipment like masks and gloves, let alone oxygen and other essential supplies to treat the coronavirus. Many health workers and public sector employees have not been paid in months.
‘Cannot hold back the tide’
Ms. Fore went on to note that UNICEF has been working in Yemen for decades, and that in recent years, it has expanded its presence to accelerate the delivery of humanitarian assistance to millions of children, helping alleviate suffering and save lives.
“But we cannot hold back the tide indefinitely,” she warned, underscoring the need for guns to fall silent, in line with the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire so nations can focus instead on the common enemy, COVID-19.
“All parties to the conflict must keep children out of harm’s way and allow unhindered access to communities in need – as is their duty under international humanitarian law,” she stressed.
The head of UNICEF also called on donors to “step up and provide urgently needed additional funds.”
UNICEF’s humanitarian appeal for Yemen for 2020, requiring $535 million, has received just $237 million – a funding gap of almost $300 million.