Geneva Palais briefing note on the humanitarian situation of children in Yemen

This is a summary of what was said by Marixie Mercado, UNICEF spokesperson in Geneva – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.

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12 June 2020 – “In Yemen, humanitarian needs have never been more acute, or funding more constrained.

As of today, UNICEF’s US$479 million appeal to sustain essential basic services for children this year is just 38 per cent funded. The most immediate and critical funding gap is for emergency water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) operations, including for the COVID-19 response.

“Of the 8.4 million Yemenis whose access to WASH will be affected because of insufficient funding, a total of 4 million people – nearly half of them children – directly depend on UNICEF.  They are among the most vulnerable Yemenis due to conflict, cholera and internal displacement.

Unless UNICEF receives US$30 million by the end of June, water, sanitation and hygiene services will start shutting down for these 4 million people in July.  This means UNICEF will not be able to provide fuel to operate water pumping stations, or de-sludge sewage, or maintain crumbling water and sanitation infrastructure. It means we will not be able to distribute basic family hygiene kits that include soap, which is so critical for preventing both cholera and COVID-19 in context where millions don’t have access to handwashing facilities.

To keep WASH services running through the end of the year UNICEF requires US$110 million. This level of funding will allow us to reach an extra 2.8 million people who we project will require assistance by then. 

“The criticality of maintaining safe water, sanitation and hygiene provision cannot be overstated in the context of a running cholera and diarrhoea epidemic. Over 137,000 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the year, nearly a quarter of them among children below 5 years old.

UNICEF’s COVID-19 response in Yemen is also severely under-funded. As of today, just 10 per cent of UNICEF’s US$53 million funding requirement had been received. 

“In addition to WASH, UNICEF leads the sector focused on risk communication and community engagement, which raises awareness about the coronavirus, and supports local efforts to prevent and contain infection. UNICEF’s planned response includes training and equipping frontline workers on infection prevention and control, sustaining essential maternal and child health services, and providing health facilities with testing kits, oxygen concentrators, ventilators and PPE items.

“Since the start of the outbreak, UNICEF has shipped over 33,000 N95 respirators, 33,000 face shields, and 18,000 gowns — crucial personal protective equipment needed by frontline workers. But this represents just 5 per cent of the COVID-19 supplies UNICEF requires.

“Without US$48 million immediately, UNICEF will not be able to:

  • Provide PPE items and operations support to 25,000 frontline workers, including health staff.
  • Provide safe water and sanitation services for 900,000 people in isolation centers and quarantine facilities.
  • Procure oxygen concentrators and ventilators.

Children in the heart of the world’s worst humanitarian disaster need help. Funding Yemen’s WASH needs and COVID-19 response is critical to their survival. We appeal to donors to step up and dig even deeper to support this lifesaving work.” 


Notes to editors:

Multimedia materials available here

Find out more about UNICEF’s work for children in Yemen 

For more information, please contact:

Alexandra Murdoch, 0207 375 6179,

Unicef UK Media Team, 0207 375 6030, 

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