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'Think of the children': Pope Francis shares worries for Yemen in New Year message

Catholic pope says six-year conflict, which shows no signs of easing, has 'numerous innocent victims'
The pope's blessing was moved indoors to limit the spread of Covid-19.
Pope's blessing was moved indoors to limit spread of Covid-19 (AFP)

Pope Francis delivered an appeal for world peace on Friday and highlighed his worries about Yemen, a country that has been plagued by six years of brutal conflict causing the world's worst humanitarian situation.

At least 22 people were killed in an attack on Aden airport on Wednesday, which triggered a fresh round of coalition air raids on the Houthi-held capital Sanaa.

"I express my sorrow and concern for the further escalation of violence in Yemen, which is causing numerous innocent victims," Francis said during the New Year services.

"Let us think of the children of Yemen, without education, without medicine, famished. Life today is governed by war, by enmity, by many things that are destructive. We want peace. It is a gift."

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Francis added that the response to the global Covid-19 crisis showed the importance of burden-sharing among the international community.

"The painful events that marked humanity's journey last year, especially the pandemic, taught us how much it is necessary to take an interest in the problems of others and to share their concerns," he said.

Yemen has endured years of chaos since Houthi rebels seized the capital and ousted President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi from the capital Sanaa.

A western-backed coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in March 2015 to prop up Hadi's beleaguered government and has since carried out almost 20,000 air attacks, with one-third striking non-military sites including schools and hospitals, according to the Yemen Data Project.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project, an American NGO, has reported that more than 100,000 people may have died as a result of the war.

Earlier this week, a report released by the United Nations Children's Fund said that at least 12.4 million Yemeni children were in need of humanitarian assistance, with about 358,000 suffering from severe malnourishment.