17 September 2009 The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today voiced deep concern at reports that many civilians have died following an air raid on a camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in northern Yemen, where Government forces are fighting Shiite insurgents.
“The raid left a high number of casualties, mainly women and children,” said Sigrid Kaag, UNICEF’s regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement. “They had sought refuge in the makeshift camp of Al Adi to flee heavy fighting.”
Media reports indicate the raid took place yesterday afternoon in Al Adi, which is close to Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia, where members of the Al-Houthi rebel group have been based.
UN officials have expressed mounting concern in recent weeks about the humanitarian impact of the fighting, which has surged since last month and left 150,000 people uprooted and in need of assistance.
Ms. Kaag described the air raid as “a tragic development in an already alarming situation. More than a month after the latest escalation of fighting, children affected by the conflict still have no access to safe water, adequate sanitation, health care and protection. Their lives are threatened by disease and violence.
“This is unacceptable. Children should not be caught in conflict. Their right to health, protection and safety must be protected at all times.”
Ms. Kaag reiterated earlier appeals by UNICEF and other UN agencies for all parties in the conflict to respect international law and ensure that children are kept out of harm’s way.
Earlier this week Rashid Khalikov, Director of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), appealed to the international community to step up its support of relief efforts in northern Yemen and warned that the crisis could worsen in the days and weeks ahead.
So far OCHA has not received any funding for its $23.7 humanitarian appeal for Yemen, issued at the start of the month.
The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed shock and alarm over the latest deaths. In addition to emergency aid already shipped to Yemen, the agency has positioned tents, mattresses, blankets and other aid items for more than 2,000 people on the Saudi side of the border with Yemen.
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