UNITED NATIONS, June 8 (Xinhua) -- The situation faced by children in Yemen is "extremely dire," a senior United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) official warned Thursday.
Speaking to the press at the UN Headquarters in New York, Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, highlighted a dramatic increase in the number of children with malnutrition.
When he left Yemen four years ago, there was already a huge caseload of children with severe acute malnutrition. On his recent visit to the country, he found the caseload was doubled, with nearly half a million children under the age of five suffering the most extreme and visible form of undernutrition.
"It does not end there. Yemen has been hit by a massive outbreak of cholera," he said, noting that reported cases already exceeded 100,000. With 3,000 to 5,000 cases added daily, it is possible that the outbreak will reach 250,000 to 300,000 cases.
Statistics show the number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen continues to rise, reaching 101,820 with 791 deaths as of June 7. Children are worst affected, with those under 15 years old accounting for 46 percent of the cases.
To make the matter worse, the country's medical care system is on the verge of collapse, or "half-collapsed," he said. Moreover, health workers have not received salaries for eight to nine months.
"It is high time that all those who are responsible realize that the country is at the verge of collapse, and one of Yemen's biggest assets, its children, are getting killed," he warned.