Children of Yemen Paying Devastating Price for Relentless Saudi-Led Assault: UNICEF
Saudi Arabia-led air strikes have hit crowded residential areas, schools, refugee camps, and warehouses storing humanitarian aid
As the Saudi Arabia-led military assault on Yemen continues into its fifth week with no sign of letting up, UNICEF reports that hundreds of children have been left maimed and killed by the violence.
Despite Saudi Arabia's dubious claim on Tuesday that "Operation Decisive Storm" is over, the bombings have resumed in full force, with at least 20 air strikes across the country reported on Thursday alone.
As the air strikes mount, so does the death toll. Since Saudi-led bombings began March 26, more than 1,000 civilians have been killed, 4,000 wounded, and 150,000 displaced.
UNICEF reported Friday that at least 115 children are included among the dead and 172 have been maimed since the Saudi-led air strikes began on March 26. The agency documented at least 64 children killed by bombings, noting that "these are conservative numbers as the verification process is ongoing. The total number of children killed or maimed in Yemen’s conflict is likely to be higher."
"There are hundreds of thousands of children in Yemen who continue to live in the most dangerous circumstances, many waking up scared in the middle of the night to the sounds of bombing and gunfire," said Julien Harneis, UNICEF Representative to Yemen, in a press statement. “The number of child casualties shows clearly how devastating this conflict continues to be for the country’s children. Without a speedy end to the violence, children will be unable to lead normal lives."
In addition to bombing densely populated residential areas, the Saudi-led coalition—which includes includes the United States, Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco—has also hit civilian infrastructures, including schools, water pipes, refugee camps, and warehouses.
Human Rights Watch declared Thursday that a coalition airstrike last week on an Oxfam warehouse storing humanitarian aid in the northern province of Saada could be a war crime, and the U.S. could be implicated. The facility was attacked despite the fact that Oxfam had provided the building's coordinates to the coalition. At least one person was killed in the strike.
"The US should disclose whether it was involved in the Oxfam warehouse strike and, if so, participate in a proper investigation," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director for HRW, in a press statement.
These attacks, in combination with a naval blockade, are cutting off Yemenis from vital food, water, and medical aid.
"Escalating conflict in Yemen is making a dire humanitarian situation worse," Oxfam said in a petition that is currently circulating. "We must do all we can to push for a permanent and immediate ceasefire. Before the current conflict, Yemen was already the poorest country in the Middle East. Over 10 million people were going hungry, including 1 million acutely malnourished children. This number has increased by nearly 2 million since the conflict began."
Atiaf Alwazir, a Yemeni researcher, writer, and blogger who lives between Yemen and Tunisia and is currently based in Washington, D.C., emphasized that, in order to fully grasp the humanitarian crisis gripping Yemen, it is necessary to recognize the humans who lie at its center.
"Despite the poverty and oppression and everything happening, it is important to highlight the resilience of Yemenis," Alwazir told Common Dreams. "It is unbelievable how people are living, going to work every day. Part of this is necessity, but also they are having weddings and getting together. Comedy and art are thriving in midst of war."
People in Yemen are turning to social media to share stories of war and survival.
— A. Sayaghi •| (@AhmedSayaghi) April 21, 2015
— Everyday Yemen (@everydayyemen) April 21, 2015
Meanwhile, the online campaign #KefayaWar ("Enough War" in Arabic) continues to collect calls for peace, from within Yemen and around the world.