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4 April 2024 - News


"Ali, call for dad, Ali, call for dad, Ali.... Then she died in front of me. I don’t remember anything afterwards except when I woke up and dad was with me in the hospital." 

Recalls Ali, a ten-year-old survivor of a landmine explosion that tragically killed his sister, Amani, and severely injured him and his sister, Safaa, who has Down syndrome. This harrowing moment marked a profound change in Ali's young life, illustrating the devastating impact of explosive ordnance (EO) on children in Yemen. 

Children's natural curiosity and a lack of awareness about the dangers of EO make them particularly vulnerable. Activities such as playing outdoors or collecting firewood can lead to tragic encounters with EO. In one-third of these cases, children do not survive, and many others suffer severe injuries, including amputations. For Ali, the doctors initially considered amputating his leg due to the severity of his injuries. 

Ali's initial disbelief and fear encapsulate the confusion and terror faced by many children in similar situations: 

"I heard the doctor telling my dad that he had to cut off my leg. I cried when I heard him, and when he left, I asked dad if they would really cut off my leg! But he said no, they won't. I couldn't believe him because I heard the doctor say they would cut it off."

Thanks to the intervention of Save the Children, supported by the European Union, to facilitate critical surgery and provide essential financial support during his recovery, Ali was spared the grim prospect of amputation. 

In 2023, the grim statistics underscore the ongoing crisis: of 284 child casualties reported in Yemen, 54% (152) were due to EO. Though this represents a decrease from the 227 EO-related child casualties in 2022, these persistently high numbers underscore the ongoing threat posed by EOs in the country. 

This persistent danger is mirrored in the broader narrative of Yemen's nearly nine-year conflict, marked by continuous tragedy. Notably, a six-month truce in 2022, intended as a step toward peace, paradoxically resulted in heightened risk for children. During this period, the proportion of child injuries and deaths from landmines and EO surged, accounting for two-thirds of all child casualties. 

This alarming trend is detailed in the Save the Children report, 'Watching Our Every Step,' which documents the rise in child casualties due to EO in Yemen from January 2018 to November 2022. The report highlights not just the physical, but the deep emotional and psychological scars borne by children caught in thein the aftermath of these devastating encounters.  

One such story is that of seventeen-year-old Bassim, whose experience underscores the fact that the incident's impact is just the beginning of a lifelong journey through trauma, manifesting in various forms and challenges. Bassim shares the heartbreak of losing his best friend Nael to an unexploded device they were toying with outside their home inHodeidah: 

"I woke up three days later, only to hear about the death of my best friend, Nael. I cried and bawled a lot for losing him. We really had the most wonderful times ever, as friends."  

The repercussions of such incidents ripple through communities, disrupting education and social integration. Tamara, a 13-year-old girl from Taiz, faced amputation after a landmine explosion, barring her from school and casting a shadow over her future. Her mother, Darya, voices the collective anguish and aspirations of many parents: 

"I want my daughters to finish their education and have a future. I want them to study at university. My eldest daughter is in her last year in school, but she dropped out since the landmine incident." 

These stories are a painful but important reminder of the illusion of safety in Yemen. Despite reductions in frontline hostilities, children like Ali, Safaa, Amani, Bassim, Salah, and Tamara continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that has left the landscape littered with lethal remnants. The data underscores a harsh reality: over 11,000 Yemeni children have been killed or maimed since the conflict's onset, with a significant portion of these tragedies attributable to landmines and EO. 

The call to action is clear: adherence to International Humanitarian Law, cessation of landmine use, scale-up of explosive ordnance risk education, and increased support for humanitarian mine action are imperative. Accountability for those responsible for harming children, full funding of the Humanitarian Response Plan, and a sustainable approach to humanitarian mine action are critical steps towards mitigating the impact of this conflict on the most vulnerable. 

The future of Yemen's children, their right to safety, education, and a life free from the fear of landmines, hangs in the balance. The time to act is now, to ensure that the horrors faced by these young victims do not become the legacy of Yemen's protracted conflict.