Families in Yemen Prevented from Accessing Food, Water and Medicine as Violence Escalates

FAIRFIELD, Conn. (December 4, 2017)—Children in the Yemeni capital Sana’a and other districts are cut off from vital help and risk being injured or killed in intense street battles and airstrikes. Save the Children is calling for an urgent ceasefire to allow aid agencies to help children in need of food and medical supplies.

Escalating violence between the Houthis and forces loyal to the late former President Ali Abdullah Saleh over the past few days, combined with new airstrikes from the Saudi-led Coalition, has prevented Yemenis from accessing basic supplies like food, medicine and water and trapped aid workers indoors.

Families report that children are terrified under some of the most intense fighting seen in the capital since the war began. Many Yemeni families haven’t had reliable electricity for nearly three years, so they’re relying on intermittent solar power.

Mohammed Awadh, Communications Manager, Save the Children, has been sheltering in a small storeroom with his wife and baby daughter: "My daughter is nearly two, and now she recognizes the sound of the bombs. I have to explain to her that we can’t go outside and why she can’t have any sweets. She cries when we have to go into the shelter – the building has been shaking under the bombardment and it’s very dark, we only have electricity for six hours a day."

Children are also at risk of shrapnel, stray bullets and blast injuries from the heavy use of explosive weapons in populated areas. Ambulances reportedly can’t reach the injured and have been shot at, schools are shut and pregnant women in labor can’t leave their homes to go to hospital. The streets have been deserted amid the continued clashes and airstrikes.

"The last few days have been unimaginably terrifying for children trapped under intense bombardment. We’re not able to get out in Sana’a to reach people with life-saving support while the fighting is this intense," said Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director for Save the Children.

"Millions of children are already acutely malnourished and sick because of the war and blockade in Yemen, and their families can’t go out to get them food and medical care. People are running out of clean water and basic supplies. It was hard to imagine that the situation in Yemen could get worse, but with this latest escalation it has."

The latest violence comes after a devastating blockade was imposed on commercial and aid imports to Yemen’s main ports of entry in November by the Saudi-led coalition, which has only partially been lifted. Save the Children has warned about the prospect of famine and an alarming spike in children with severe acute malnutrition. The cut in supplies has crippled hospitals, grain processing facilities and water and sanitation plants and sent the prices of basic goods soaring. The price of water, for example, has risen by 600 percent in some areas – increasing the risk of water-borne diseases like cholera because families can’t access clean water.

Save the Children has requested trauma kits to help respond to the high number of injured civilians, but there’s a shortage of medical supplies to treat trauma injuries in the country due to the blockade. The charity is calling for an immediate ceasefire to allow aid agencies and medics to reach the people in need.

"All those fighting in Yemen and their allies must act now to stop the senseless suffering of children because of this conflict, and immediately enact a ceasefire," Kirolos added. "If this is not a wake-up call to the international community that the war in Yemen must be brought to an end, I don’t know what is."

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