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Two shattered survivors

19 August 2019, Action for Change

A year since an airstrike hit a school bus in Yemen, the children who survived are still struggling to cope


In August last year, an airstrike hit a school bus in Saada, northern Yemen. 40 children were killed and dozens more were seriously injured. 

Khaled*, 12, was one of the children who survived. He was on a field trip with his classmates when the bus was hit in a busy marketplace. 

“My friend said, I swear that airstrike is aiming for us,” he remembers. “I didn’t believe him. I told him it will not hit us. But it was true, it was aiming for us.”

Khaled explains that he is struggling to recover and that he continues to suffer psychologically every day.

“Every time I hear warplanes I run away. I don’t dare to stay. I close my ears and lay down to sleep that way. I am scared, if it hits again. If it hits, then it will hit children.”

“At night I have ugly dreams. I see the carnage, I see everything… then I get up and cry all night long.”

“I still have shrapnel in my head. Sometimes I get headaches... I can’t go to school, because my leg is still broken and we don’t have a car – the school is far.”

Khaled still can’t walk without crutches and needs further surgery to remove broken glass from his head.
Photo: Sami M. Jassar


Ismail*, eight years old, was also injured in the attack. He sustained several wounds and his leg was severely broken – he can now walk, but he is still afraid to go out of the house and play. 

“A rocket hit the bus when we were off to study,” Ismail recalls. “We weren’t aware of anything until we were hit.”

“I wasn’t conscious until I was at hospital. At first, I couldn’t get better, I couldn’t at all. But after a week or two, I started to get better. I had a fragment right next to my eye and a fragment in my leg – they put me to sleep and removed it with I don’t know what. My foot is broken and fractured there, twisted there and broken near my toes. There’s shrapnel in my little toe.”

In Yemen, warring parties continue to kill children without fear of consequences. While the children’s pain endures, a lack of accountability continues to undermine justice for those affected. 

Save the Children’s child protection staff on the ground say that many of these children are likely to need some form of mental health or psychosocial support. Ismail is one of them. 

“War is not good,” he says simply. “Everybody dies in it. The war is a curse. I wish it could stop now.”

Ismail has shrapnel fragments next to his eye, in his leg and in his little toe. Photo: Sami M. Jassar

Australian exports fuelling a war on children

Australians may be surprised to learn that the Government continues to allow defence exports to countries waging the war in Yemen. A war which has claimed the lives of more than 85,000 children through bombs, disease and famine. 

Many countries including the UK, Finland, Norway, Denmark and Austria have already halted arms sales to key combatants like Saudi Arabia. The Saudi-Emirati led coalition has been accused by the U.N. of committing war crimes and crimes against humanity in Yemen through indiscriminate airstrikes. 

Every month 37 more children are dying, many from foreign made bombs. Save the Children is calling on the Australian Government to immediately ban defence exports to Saudi Arabia and the UAE. 

Will you help by adding your name to our petition calling for this to urgently stop?

*Name changed to protect identity.

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