UN blacklists Saudi-led coalition over child deaths in Yemen

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has placed the Saudi-led military coalition supporting Yemen's government on an annual blacklist over the deaths of hundreds of children in air strikes.

Yemen's Shiite Huthi rebels who seized the capital Sana'a in September 2014 were also added to the list of children's rights violators released on Thursday, detailing offences in 14 countries.

"Emerging and escalating crises had a horrific impact on boys and girls," said a statement from the office of the UN envoy for children and armed conflict.

"The situation in Yemen was particularly worrisome with a five-fold increase in the number of children recruited (by armed groups) and six times more children killed and maimed compared to 2014," it said.

The Saudi-led coalition is responsible for 60% of the total 785 children who were killed and 1,168 wounded last year in Yemen, said the report.

The coalition launched its air campaign to push back the Huthis in March 2015, but the rebels still control the capital and many parts of the country.

"In Yemen, owing to the very large number of violations attributed to the two parties, the Huthis/Ansar Allah and the Saudi Arabia-led coalition are listed for killing and maiming and attacks on schools and hospitals," the report said.

Of the 762 verified cases of recruitment of child soldiers, 72% were attributed to the Huthis, 15% to pro-government forces and nine percent to Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, according to the report.

"In several situations of conflict, aerial operations contributed to creating complex environments in which large numbers of children were killed and maimed," said Leila Zerrougui, the UN envoy for children and armed conflict.

"State-allied armed groups and militia have also increasingly been used to fight in support of government forces, in some cases recruiting and using children," she said.

More than 6,400 people have been killed in Yemen since the coalition began its campaign and some 80% of the population is in dire need of humanitarian aid, according to the UN.

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