UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The conflict in Yemen has killed nearly 400 children since the end of March, and a similar number of children have been recruited by armed groups, according to a new report by the U.N. children's agency. It warns that the fighting shows "no sign of a resolution."
This is UNICEF's first such alert on Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been fighting Shiite Houthi rebels since late March. Millions have been trapped in the conflict, and aid groups have warned that many people are on the brink of starvation.
"Basic services that children depend on have been decimated," UNICEF says.
Its report says that as of a week ago, 398 children have been killed, 377 have been recruited to fight and 1.3 million have fled their homes. The report says the death toll could be much higher. Overall, the U.N. human rights office said Tuesday, at least 1,950 civilians have been killed in the fighting as of Friday.
"Abdul was 4 years old, and he was killed by a sniper," the report quotes one local child, 7-year-old Nada Nussir as saying. "I do not want to die like him."
Human rights groups have expressed concern that both sides are violating the laws of war and not doing enough to protect civilians. Amnesty International this week called on the U.N. to create a commission of inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes.
The U.N. and 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 U.N.-brokered humanitarian pauses to bring in aid have failed.
The new UNICEF report says about 10 million children, or half of the country's population, need urgent humanitarian assistance.
It also says 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.
Saudi Arabia months ago pledged to fully fund a $274 million emergency U.N. appeal for Yemen, but a UNICEF spokesman, Rajat Madhok, on Tuesday told The Associated Press that the agency has not received any money from the appeal. Discussions between the kingdom and the world body on the terms of the funding have long delayed the money.