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UNICEF: 115 children killed in Yemen in the last month

The UN agency says figures are expected to rise as it is still verifying cases of killed children since the Saudi-led air strikes began
Yemeni children pose during a protest in front of the United Nations office in Sanaa on 13 April 2015 against a strike by the Saudi-led coalition (AFP)

In a statement released on Friday, the UN children’s agency UNICEF said that at least 115 children have been killed in the past month in Yemen since the Saudi-led military campaign began on 26 March.

A further 117 were maimed in the violence, with UNICEF officials saying that these numbers are conservative and that they expect the actual death toll of children to be much higher.

“Over half the children killed were all based in the northern region as a result of the airstrikes,” said UNICEF official Mohammed al-Asaadi. “Whenever we monitor cases like this, we go into details of the circumstances of their death, whether from gunshot wounds, airstrikes, artillery shells, or street battles.”

Seventy-one of the children died in northern Yemen where airstrikes have hit Houthi positions and vital infrastructure including factories and football stadiums. UNICEF said that 19 were killed by gunshots, three by shelling, and 26 by unexploded ordnance and mines.

According to UNICEF, at least 140 children had been recruited by armed groups in the last month.

The agency's representative in Yemen Julien Harneis said earlier this month that up to a third of fighters in the country were children.

In Yemen's tribal culture, it is common for boys to take up arms at a young age - something that is having dire consequences amid the spiralling conflict.

On Friday, Harneis pointed out in a statement that "hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen... continue to live in the most dangerous circumstances, many waking up scared in the middle of the night to the sounds of bombing and gunfire.

"The number of child casualties shows clearly how devastating this conflict continues to be for the country's children," he said.

“We are still in the middle of documenting and verifying each case, by obtaining birth certificates from their parents and hospital records and death certificates,” al-Asaadi said.

The World Health Organisation said on Thursday the overall death toll in Yemen had topped 1,000, and the UN's human rights agency said Friday at least 551 of the people who died were civilians.

The spiralling conflict has fuelled a humanitarian disaster in a country that was already suffering from shortages before the latest fighting erupted.

The UN's World Food Programme warned Friday that a full 12 million people in the country did not know where their next meal was coming from - a 13-percent increase since the conflict escalated in late March.

The agency said it was delivering food to more than 100,000 people sheltered around the southern port city of Aden.

"But we are struggling to reach people because of deteriorating security," a WFP statement said, adding that dire fuel shortages were also hampering the response.