As the brutal conflict in Yemen enters a third year, the consequences continue to devastate the vast majority of its population. Disease, food shortages and reduced access to education mean the crippling impacts will be felt for years to come.
“I stopped going to school before I was in grade two. I worked in qat farms and I missed out on years of my life there.”
When his father lost his job, Sami* and his brothers left school to look for work.
Sami travelled to a neighbouring district to beg qat farmers to give him some leaves to sell in the market (qat is an Arabian shrub, the leaves of which are chewed as a stimulant). He earned about a dollar a day which he saved to buy food for his family when he returned home every two or three months.
He begged for his meals and would go hungry most days, sleeping frightened and alone in a mosque.
“The last time I was supposed to go to work I got malaria before I left,” Sami recalls. “I couldn’t go to the health facility because we didn’t have any money. Sometimes I feel a lot of pain in my heart, like my heart is sick.”
Before the war, Sami’s father, Dahan*, had enough work to support his family. But with the conflict came higher prices for food and supplies, and local farmers could no longer afford to hire his labour.
“I saw children from our village going to work”, Dahan says. “So I asked my children to go as well. It was not an easy decision. I felt so scared for my children but I was obliged to send them to work. Life became so difficult. I know it’s wrong to send them but I had no option, either to send them to work or to all die of starvation.”
Since the war broke out in March 2015, 10,000 people have been killed, including 1,400 children. Infrastructure has been decimated, supply chains cut off and the health system has all but collapsed. More than 2 million children are malnourished and a dangerous outbreak of cholera is posing a constant deadly threat. 19 million Yemenis – or over 70% of the entire population – are in need of humanitarian assistance.
There are also less visible, long-term consequences of the war. Child mortality has escalated, hundreds of thousands of families have fled their homes and around 2 million of the 7.3 million school-aged children in Yemen do not have access to education.
Save the Children has programs operating across the country, including the rehabilitation of health facilities, provision of food and medicine, treatment of malnutrition and interventions to help prevent the spread of disease. We also run awareness sessions on child protection and child rights.
Sami’s family has our support. His father no longer sends his children to find work. Sami, now aged 13, goes to school and is in grade three, some years behind friends of his age. He has a lot of catching up to do.
“I felt so happy when I got back home and saw the change that happened in my family because of Save the Children. At school, I started reading, writing and doing homework. I love Arabic and mathematics. Unfortunately, there is a lack of pens and notebooks and I wish I had a school bag. I want to be a teacher so I can earn a salary to provide for my family.”
Ongoing support in Yemen right now is critical, not only for saving lives today, but also to help prevent catastrophic long-term damage to the region. So, we are urging the Australian government and others to extend their hand and provide further support. For too long, the cries for help from the people of Yemen have not been given the attention they need.
Children are dying from severe hunger. They need your urgent help.Donate now: Child Hunger Crisis