The brutal conflict in Yemen continues to exact a devastating toll on children, with at least eight killed and a further 33 injured in attacks since the beginning of March. Across the country, over 11 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
First published in March 2021.
According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the incidents occurred as conflict intensified along active frontlines in Taizz and Al Hudaydah governorates. Injuries were also confirmed in Al Bayda, Al Dhale’e, Ibb and Marib governorates.
“We condemn these attacks in the strongest possible terms. Too often children and their families pay the highest price as conflict rages around them”, Philippe Duamelle, UNICEF Representative to Yemen said in a statement.
“As these are only the numbers that the United Nations has been able to confirm, the actual numbers are likely to be even higher”, he added.
Violation of international humanitarian law
UNICEF also noted that civilians and civilian infrastructure are protected under international humanitarian law.
“Attacks on civilians – including children – and on civilian objects can violate international humanitarian law”, stressed Mr. Duamelle, calling on parties to the conflict to stop attacks on civilian infrastructure and neighbourhoods, and protect the most vulnerable.
“As we approach six years of brutal conflict in Yemen, children and families need peace more than ever”, he said.
Over 11 million children in need of assistance
Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with 20.7 million people – including 11.3 million children – in need of some form of humanitarian assistance and protection, according to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
One of most pressing concerns is that the country is “hurtling towards” the worst famine the world has seen in decades, driven by a range of factors including conflict, environmental shocks, and weak social, economic and governance systems.
For children, the situation is more worrying. Cases of acute malnutrition for those under five are at the highest ever recorded, and in some areas, one child in four is acutely malnourished. They are also at an increased risk of exploitation, abuse and violence.
Against this bleak backdrop, UN agencies and relief partners on Tuesday, launched a $3.85 billion humanitarian response plan to reach about 16 million most vulnerable, including 8.8 million children, with life-saving assistance.
The UK’s responsibility
As the Guardian discovered in 2019, British weapons produced in the UK, in Glenrothes in Scotland, and in Harlow and Stevenage in south-east England – and sold to the Saudi Royal Air Force – are sadly doing much of the killing in Yemen.
“Every day Yemen is hit by British bombs – dropped by British planes that are flown by British-trained pilots and maintained and prepared inside Saudi Arabia by thousands of British contractors.”
Just a month ago, Oxfam was accusing the British government of prolonging the war in Yemen, “As the US has called for an end to the conflict in Yemen, the UK is heading in the opposite direction, ramping up its support for the brutal Saudi-led war by increasing arms sales and refuelling equipment that facilitate airstrikes.”
Indeed in 2020, the Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, and the International Trade Secretary, Liz Truss, approved an acceleration in arms exports to Saudi Arabia (worth £1.4bn), after an official review called airstrikes that broke humanitarian law “isolated incidents”.
- ‘The Saudis couldn’t do it without us’: the UK’s true role in Yemen’s deadly war | The Guardian
- Saudi Arabia Market Guide | UK Department for International Trade
- Britain Says It Will Resume Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia | The New York Times
- UK: Liz Truss statement on arms sales to Saudi Arabia ‘deeply cynical’ | Amnesty International
▫ PMP News reporting.
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[This piece was first published in PMP Magazine on 20 March 2021. | The author writes in a personal capacity.]
(Cover: UNICEF/UNI338489. - Across Yemen, over 11 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)