Education of 4.5M children in Yemen threatened by ongoing conflict

PHOTO: Yemeni students gather in lines for morning assembly on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.Yahya Arhab/EPA
Yemeni students gather in lines for morning assembly on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.

A new school year is underway for children in the U.S., but for children in Yemen, where air strikes have been routine since March 2015, a new school year means trying to find a school.

The fighting between the Saudi-led military coalition and the Houthi rebels has left many colleges and schools damaged or destroyed, with others closed out of fear.

According to Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and Africa, 1,600 schools have been damaged or destroyed, and 170 are being used for military purposes or as a shelter for displaced families.

PHOTO: Yemeni students attend classes on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.Yahya Arhab/EPA
Yemeni students attend classes on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.

“For those children who can attend school, malnutrition and the trauma of displacement and violence have seriously affected their ability to learn,” Cappelaere said.

PHOTO: Yemeni students gather in lines for morning assembly on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017. Yahya Arhab/EPA
Yemeni students gather in lines for morning assembly on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.

Officials fear that without schools, which can provide a safe haven for the vulnerable, children could be susceptible to recruitment for fighting or early marriage.

PHOTO: A Yemeni teacher walks through the debris of a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes, on the first week of a new school year in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.Yahya Arhab/EPA
A Yemeni teacher walks through the debris of a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes, on the first week of a new school year in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.

Yemen plunged into civil war when the Houthis seized the capital Sanna in September 2014, forcing Yemeni President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee and leading a Saudi Arabia-led coalition to launch a military campaign on his behalf.

PHOTO: Yemeni students attend classes on the first week of a new school year at a public school allegedly bombed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.Yahya Arhab/EPA
Yemeni students attend classes on the first week of a new school year at a public school allegedly bombed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.

Yemen's instability has created fertile ground for militant groups, such as al Qaeda and ISIS, who have launched attacks on both sides of the crisis.

PHOTO: Yemeni students attend classes on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017. Yahya Arhab/EPA
Yemeni students attend classes on the first week of a new school year at a public school bombed by Saudi-led air strikes in Ibb, Yemen, Oct. 18, 2017.

ABC News’ Morgan Winsor contributed to this report.

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