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UN: Yemen Is 'Worst Place on Earth to Be a Child'

FILE - In this Tuesday, March 22, 2016 photo, infant Udai Faisal, who is suffering from acute malnutrition, is hospitalized at Al-Sabeen Hospital in Sanaa, Yemen.
UN: Yemen Is 'Worst Places on Earth to Be a Child'
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Ships carrying food aid arrived in Yemen last weekend.

The Reuters news agency reported that a ship carrying about 6,000 tons of flour was given permission to stop at the Yemeni port of Hodeida.

The United Nations’ World Food Program said about 27,000 tons of wheat arrived on Sunday at the Red Sea port of Saleef. The port is under the control of forces opposed to Yemen’s government.

The aid shipments arrived after Saudi Arabia and its allies eased a nearly three-week long blockade. Yet aid agencies say millions of people, including many children, are at risk of death from starvation in Yemen.

Many at risk of death

Geert Cappelaere is with the UN Children's Fund,or UNICEF. He says Yemen is one of the worst places on Earth to be a child. He is urging all sides involved in the conflict to not block the shipment of humanitarian aid.

Cappelaere is UNICEF’s Middle East director. He said that more than 11 million Yemeni children are in need of humanitarian assistance. He said that number includes almost every single boy and girl in the country. He estimated that every 10 minutes, a Yemeni child is dying from a preventable disease.

FILE - Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Movenpick Hotel in Beirut, Lebanon, Apr. 25, 2017.
FILE - Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the Movenpick Hotel in Beirut, Lebanon, Apr. 25, 2017.

"I reiterate my plea to everyone with a heart for children, indeed not to prevent us from delivering what is urgently needed and massively needed."

Cappelaere noted that aircraft carrying 1.9 million doses of vaccines landed Saturday at Sana’a International Airport. Those vaccines are designed to protect from the diseases diphtheria, tuberculosis and meningitis.

The UNICEF official told reporters on Sunday that far more supplies are needed.

"Yesterday was just a very small step. It is a very tiny step, it may sound huge - 1.9 million doses of vaccine, but there are many more millions of vaccines needed, if we want to prevent that there will be a break in the routine immunization in the country, there are many more supplies needed."

Aid prevented by the blockade

About seven million people are at risk of starvation in Yemen. Their survival depends on international assistance.

But a Saudi-led coalition blocked off land, sea and air travel to Yemen on November 6 after a missile attack on Riyadh.

The Saudis stopped the missile attack. The government blames Iran for the attack and for arming the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran’s government denies the accusations.

Last week, the Saudi-led coalition promised to ease the blockade on the Sana’a airport and Hodeida.

Hodeida, Yemen
Hodeida, Yemen

A U.N. official said close to 5,000 children have been killed or injured since the start of a Saudi-led campaign in support of the Yemeni government in 2015. Two and a half million people have fled the violence.

Mohammed Khadeesh is one of about 120 people living in a camp in Yemen’s south.

"The Houthis were firing from the north of our place and the resistance from the south, shooting towards us and flying over us. We fled and arrived here with our children two months ago. And for the past two months, we haven't received anything: no mattresses, no aid, nothing."

The displacement and the blockade have worsened the crisis. Urgent humanitarian need includes water pumps to help control the spread of cholera and fuel needed to transport supplies.

Zlatica Hoke and Kenneth Schwartz reported this story for Phil Dierking adapted their report for Learning English. ­­­George Grow was the editor.

How do you think aid should be delivered to countries in conflict? We want to hear from you. Write to us in the Comments Section or on our Facebook page.


Words in This Story

dose - n. the amount of a medicine, drug, or vitamin that is taken at one time

immunization - n. a vaccine to prevent infection by a disease