SANA’A – At least 226 Yemeni children have been killed and 217 injured in air raids carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition in the last twelve months - or 37 a month, according to a new analysis of open source data carried out by Save the Children. Of these children, 210 were inside or close to a house when their lives were torn apart by bombs that had been sold to the coalition by foreign governments.
Almost 150 children were travelling by car or close to a car when they were hit, according to the data of the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP), sometimes while fleeing for safety. The number of children killed and wounded is likely to be even higher as not all civilian casualties in Yemen are reported publicly.
On Tuesday, it will be exactly 4 years since the conflict in Yemen escalated. Since then, air strikes have been the largest cause of conflict-related deaths and injuries among Yemen’s children[iv]. During the fourth year of the conflict in Yemen, 46 per cent of the children killed or injured were hit by bombs dropped from an aircraft.
Save the Children Australia CEO Paul Ronalds expressed his concern that Australia was continuing to issue defense export licenses to countries involved in the war in Yemen.
“The Government’s ambition to see Australia become a top ten defence exporter comes with a responsibility to ensure weapons and other military equipment are not used by parties perpetrating alleged violations of international law,” Mr Ronalds said.
“In the case of Yemen, the United Nations has found that parties to the conflict such as Saudi Arabia and the UAE may have committed war crimes including rape, torture and indiscriminate airstrikes that have killed civilians.
“It is inconceivable, therefore, that Australia could justify continuing to issue defence export licences to a party to the Yemen conflict on human rights and humanitarian grounds.”
According to the CIMP data, air strikes regularly killed or injured several children at once as they hit populated areas where the risk of civilian casualties was greater. On April 17th 2018, an airstrike reportedly hit a civilian family’s house in the port city of Hodeidah, killing a man, his wife and five of their children. On August 6th, 40 children were among 51 civilians killed when an airstrike hit a school bus in a local market. On March 10th of this year, more than ten children were reportedly killed when five houses were hit during an air raid.
Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen, Tamer Kirolos, said:
“The use of explosive weapons in populated areas is a cruel tactic as they indiscriminately destroy all in their path. It is impossible to imagine the terror a child must feel when a bomb drops on their home, yet many were killed or wounded while they sought safety in their homes or when they were fleeing from danger. No child should have to endure the terror of an air strike, yet it continues to happen, leaving deep physical and mental scars.”
Since the escalation of the conflict there have been more than 19,000 air raids, devastating hospitals, schools and infrastructure and inflicting terrible damage on children. Sameer*, 8 years old, is one of the victims of the airstrikes. He was badly injured in a village close to Hodeidah when an airstrike hit while he was coming back from evening prayer with his grandfather. He recalls:
“I heard the rocket coming, it went boom, after that I fainted. My father took me to the ambulance, and the ambulance took me to the hospital. After three days I woke up. (…) I wish the war would stop, things would calm down. I think about the devil sometimes. He teases me.”
Sameer sustained severe head injuries and had to have surgery. His arm is still paralysed. Save the Children has been helping him and other children who were injured in airstrikes by paying for their medical treatment and medicines, and in some cases by providing specialists who help children to recover mentally from their experiences. It has also set up child friendly spaces where children can play, learn and start feeling like a child again.
The conflict has had devastating consequences in Yemen. An estimated 24 million Yemenis are in need of assistance as food and other aid supplies cannot reach those who need it. Millions of children are on the brink of starvation in one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time. The violence has also driven 3 million people from their homes, half of them children.
Save the Children is calling on governments, including Australia, to suspend arms sales to warring parties in Yemen while children continue to be killed and maimed indiscriminately, and to make sure strong monitoring and accountability are in place. Countries with influence over the warring parties or in the UN Security Council are being urged to use their power to push the political negotiations forward. An agreement reached in December in Stockholm on the redeployment of armed forces in Hodeidah was a positive first step, Save the Children believes, but more is needed to reach a lasting peace for the children of Yemen and their families.
For media inquiries contact Evan Schuurman on 0406 117 937.
*Name changed for privacy reasons.