Today marks the 1,000th day since the Yemen conflict began. Save the Children reports from Sana’a the devastating toll the war has taken on children in the poorest Middle Eastern country.
A Saudi Arabia-led coalition on March 26th 2015 commenced a bombing campaign to reinstate their favoured President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi and to eliminate anti-government rebels.
Thousands of children have died in the conflict, while much a greater number suffer life-changing trauma and critical health conditions. Save the Children predicts over 50,000 children will die this year alone if the war continues.
4.5 million children and pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished, while 462,000 suffer from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM), both a 148% and a 200% increase from late 2014 respectively. 63 out of 1,000 children die before their fifth birthday.
Over 1,900 out of 3,507 health facilities in 16 governorates have either shut down or been forced to scale back operations, making it almost impossible to treat the injured.
Because of Yemen’s deteriorating education facilities, 4.5 million children were unable to go to school this term, which could impair their future development.
“It’s been 1,000 days since the Saudi Arabia and UAE-led Coalition started bombing and fighting in Yemen, and even longer since deadly violence broke out across the country. In that time, the devastation of Yemen has been unimaginably absolute,” said Tamer Kirolos, Save the Children’s Yemen Country Director.
“We have seen civilians killed, schools and hospitals bombed, and humanitarian access severely restricted. All of this has seemingly intentionally created conditions in which children are starving and are not able to get suitable medical attention.”
Thousands bear life-changing injuries, like 13-year-old Noran (name changed) who is wheelchair-bound after an airstrike knocked her down and seriously damaged her spine.
Noran and her seven sisters depend on their father’s income. Yet like millions of Yemenis, he has not received his public-sector salary since the war started.
“I used to go to school on foot, my life was beautiful because I could walk and write. Now, I can’t walk to school. I can only go with the wheelchair. I used to be able to sit in a chair at my desk and write but now when I try to write, my hand hurts because of the injury in my back. I used to love writing, but now I can’t even hold a pen,” said Noran.
“Noran’s articulate and poignant message must be heard by world leaders who have the power to enforce a ceasefire and negotiate a peace deal in Yemen,” said George Graham, Director of Conflict and Humanitarian Policy, Advocacy and Campaigns, Save the Children.
“After 1,000 bitter days, now more than ever, the children of Yemen deserve concerted international action to end the violence and give them hope for a better future.”
The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that Yemen’s cholera crisis, the worst in recorded human history, has nearly reached 1 million cases.
“We cannot allow the war in Yemen to continue for even one more day. If those in power, or those with the influence to end this war, do not bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict they will be complicit in condemning the children of Yemen to even more death and misery,” added Tamer Kirolos.
The British government pledge to give more funding for Yemen and open access to the country. Yet the Saudi-led blockade on supplies into the country is not completely lifted, while Britain still sells billions of arms to the kingdom.
The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) is also on the ground in Yemen.
Iolanda Jaquemet, spokesperson for the ICRC’s mission on the ground, reported that civilians are absolutely defeated and weakened after nearly three years of traumatizing warfare.
“We call on the borders to Yemen to open to allow in more humanitarian aid and commercial supplies. Yemen has critically low-levels of fuel. Without it, waters pumps cannot work, which makes cholera spread faster. Hospitals do not have enough fuel for the generators. Ambulances cannot reach injured people without it.”
Jaquemet mentioned suspected cases of Diphtheria are increasing. She said “it is hard to determine whether it is Diphtheria, because of the weakened healthcare here. But it is likely. Over half the suspected cases are people under 20 years of age.”
“Even if cholera is contained and defeated, new outbreaks are likely because of a lack of vaccination, malnutrition, and general lack of vital health services. A new disease is always around the corner,” she said.
She warns however that charitable efforts alone cannot solve Yemen’s suffering.
“A political situation is the only necessary way to stop the suffering. States that have an influence on parties involved in the fighting have a duty they abide by the Geneva Conventions, and exert their influence to stop those violating the agreement.”