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To save Yemen's children, stop arming belligerents: NGO report

The Saudi-led coalition has been responsible for a disproportionate number of child casualties in Yemen, report says
A Yemeni boy walks past the rubble of destroyed houses in Yemen (AFP)

UN member states, including those on the Security Council, should stop providing arms to parties who are violating the laws of war in Yemen, Save the Children said in a bleak report on Wednesday.

"Influential governments, including some permanent members of the UN Security Council, have chosen to support military action, often directly through the approval of arms sales and the provision of other military support, instead of using their influence to help find a sustainable peace," the report said.

“The consequences have been devastating for Yemen’s children for whom the situation will only get worse unless meaningful action is taken now to end this devastating conflict,” the NGO added.

According to Save the Children, some 856 children have been killed and 1,249 injured since March 2015, when Saudi Arabia began its bombing campaign against Houthi fighters in Yemen.

“This equates to six girls and boys killed or injured each day as a direct consequence of the conflict,” the report, entitled “Yemen’s Children Suffering in Silence,” said.

In a particularly troubling statistic, civilians accounted for 93 percent of those killed or injured in explosive attacks in Yemen’s populated areas last year. Some 6,119 civilians were killed or injured by explosions in densely populated areas in the country in 2015.

“All sides are alleged to be responsible for such violations,” the report said. “However, the UN has attributed a disproportionate number of child casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure to (Saudi-led) coalition airstrikes.”

An infographic provided in the report (Save the Children)

Additionally, Yemeni children’s lives are threatened by land mines and unexploded ordnance. 

The NGO highlighted the case of 10-year-old Ali, who was injured when his friend was playing with an unexploded anti-aircraft bullet. Ali’s friend Saif and another boy died in the incident, while Ali sustained serious chest wounds.

Five other children were also injured in the incident, and Ali’s mother says he frequently wakes up in the middle of the night crying, “All my friends died! Where are they?”

War severely limiting access to education

In addition to the physical dangers children face in Yemen due to indiscriminate attacks, the conflict in Yemen has meant a halt in schooling for many students in the country.

“In addition to the 1.6 million children that were already not attending school prior to March 2015, a further 1.8 million children are now also being deprived of an education,” the report said. 

With countless schools closed due to war damage, others being used as humanitarian shelters and still others occupied by armed groups, around half of Yemen’s population of school-aged children have been denied access to education.

“Prolonged absences from school will detrimentally affect the futures of Yemen’s children,” Save the Children said.

“It also means that they are more vulnerable to child protection risks including exploitation and abuse as they are not in the protective and regular environment that a school can provide.”

After highlighting widespread issues of malnutrition and lack of access to healthcare for Yemen’s children as well, the NGO called on all parties to redouble their efforts to find a peaceful solution to end the conflict.

But while the war continues to drag on, the UN should at the very least provide money for humanitarian efforts in the country, which are now only 4 percent funded, the report added.