It shocked millions of people around the world.

A haunting portrait of a child fighting to survive - bones protruding from her narrow frame, ribs flared out like fans. Seven-year-old Amal made headlines for the worst reason - she was wasting away from hunger.

Less than a week later, her photo re-appeared on the front of a number of news websites. Amal had died in a refugee camp in Yemen, more than six kilometres from the hospital.

The portrait of Amal was as powerful as it was devastating. It summed up often overlooked stats in Yemen:
  • 11 million children, 80 percent of all children in Yemen, need help
  • 1.2 million children live in active conflict zones
  • 24.4 million people (nearly the entire population of Australia) need assistance to survive
  • Ten million people are a step away from famine and starvation
Millions of children across Yemen face serious threats due to malnutrition and the lack of basic health services. © UNICEF/UN0276428/Almahbashi

It put a human face to the realisation that Yemen is on the brink of a man-made famine and pushed the human toll of the war high on the global agenda.

But the news cycle is habitual. Breaking news stories come in as quickly as they go out. Every so often a story will gather a storm of attention, only to fizzle out with the onslaught of another news headline.   

The stories of Yemen are no different, they fall into the same viscous news cycle.
UNICEF backpacks which belonged to the children killed in the August airstrike on their return from a school excursion. © UNICEFAustralia

“Airstrike by US - backed Saudi coalition on bus kills dozens of Yemeni children”

The world stopped for a brief second in August last year when news fell that dozens of children travelling back from a school trip on the bus had been killed or maimed in an airstrike attack in northern Yemen.

There was outrage in the days that followed as reports of “body parts scattered all over the area” and “the sounds of moaning and crying everywhere” spread across the news.

UNICEF staff in Yemen said August was a devastatingly sad month with at least 87 children confirmed killed and 129 injured in just four weeks.

But again, like most news stories, interest in the airstrike eventually waned.

While stories on the crisis in Yemen continue to fall off the news radar, conditions are worsening at a nearly unprecedented rate. In 2014, prior to the conflict, 14.7 million people require assistance. In 2015, the number grew to 15.9 million; in 2016 to 21.2 million and in 2018 to 22.2 million.
Children in Yemen face the risk of death due to the lack of food and the expansion of battles to residential areas, including hospitals that provide emergency healthcare services to the affected families. © UNICEF/UN0276428/Almahbashi

So far this year, 24.4 million people need assistance to survive. That’s almost the entire population of Australia. An increasing number of people are unable to say when they will eat their next meal and that figure is only expected to grow further.

We have reached the devastating four-year mark of continuous conflict in Yemen. The humanitarian crisis in the worst in the world. A higher percentage of people - many of which are children - face death, hunger and disease than in any other country.

Children in Yemen have suffered for far too long. On behalf of these children, UNICEF is calling for an immediate political solution to end the war.

Warring parties must put an end to violence across Yemen, protect civilians, keep children out of harm’s way and allow humanitarian deliveries to children and their families. Yemen is a living hell for children.

We cannot forget this. We cannot forget them.
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