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Indian priest abducted in Yemen could be released soon

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Yemen: An Indian priest abducted by gunmen in Yemen last month is safe and could be released soon, a Catholic group said on Sunday, quoting the Indian foreign minister.

Father Tom Uzhunnalil was captured from the southern Yemeni city of Aden by gunmen who killed at least 15 people at an old people’s home in an attack that was condemned by Pope Francis.

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) said a delegation met Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj who said the government was working to secure the priest’s safe return.

“She has assured us Father Tom is safe and negotiations are on for his release which could happen very soon,” said Father Joseph Chinnaiyan, deputy secretary of the CBCI.

Media reports last week said the priest was killed by Islamic State militants on Good Friday, although no one has claimed responsibility for last month’s attack in which gunmen killed four Indian nuns, two Yemeni female staff members, eight elderly residents and a guard.

Father Chinnaiyan said the reports were inaccurate.

Aden has been racked by lawlessness since Hadi supporters, backed by Gulf Arab military forces, drove fighters of the Iran-allied Houthi group from the city in July last year.

International aid groups have pulled most of their foreign staff from Yemen due to security concerns.

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The Biggest Casualty In Yemen’s War- Education

Yemen also suffers from a shortage of learning facilities.

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Girls attend a class at their school damaged by a recent Saudi-led air strike, in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen.VOA

The school year in Yemen is officially underway. But, the U.N. children’s fund reports the country’s ongoing civil war is keeping millions of children out of the classroom.

More than three years of fighting between the Yemeni government and Houthi rebels is having a devastating impact on children’s health and well-being. The U.N. reports more than 11 million children or 80 percent of the country’s children are dependent upon humanitarian aid.

Another major casualty of the war is children’s education. The U.N. children’s fund says the education sector is on the brink of collapse because of conflict, political divisions and chronic underdevelopment.

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UNICEF: Education a Major Casualty of Yemen’s War.

As a consequence, UNICEF spokesman Christophe Boulierac said around two million children are not going to school this year. Furthermore, he said nearly four million primary school children soon may not be able to get an education because of a severe shortage of teachers.

“About 67 percent of public school teachers — and this is across the country — have not been paid for nearly two years. Many have looked for other work to survive or are only teaching a few subjects. So, obviously, the quality of education is at stake. Children are not getting their full lessons due to the absence of their teachers. Even when schools are functioning, the schools’ days and years are shortened.”

Yemen also suffers from a shortage of learning facilities. UNICEF reports more than 2,500 schools have been damaged or destroyed by the war. Many schools also are being used as shelters for displaced people and some have been taken over by armed groups.

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FILE – A supporter carries posters depicting Houthi leader Abdel-Malek al-Houthi during a rally in Sana’a, Yemen, March 6, 2015.
Image source: VOA

The agency warns children who are out of school run many dangers. It notes boys are at risk of being used as child soldiers. It estimates more than 2,600 children have been recruited by all armed groups.

Also Read: North Kivu And Ituri, Congo To Welcome More Than 80,000 Children In This New School Year

UNICEF says girls are likely to be married off at an early age. A 2016 survey finds close to three quarters of women in Yemen have been married before the age of 18, and 44.5 percent before the age of 15. (VOA)