Yemen’s forgotten children

Monday 15 February 2016

A blog by Grant Pritchard, Director of Advocacy, Communications and Media, Save the Children Yemen

The scale of suffering in Yemen is staggering.

Ten months on since the escalation in this pointless, protracted and bloody conflict has left the Middle East’s already poorest and most under-developed country now witnessing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis with 21.2 million people – or 82% of the population - now in need of emergency humanitarian assistance, including close to 10 million children.

But while the parties to the conflict continue to be unwilling to compromise and find a peaceful solution and while a hesitant international community continues to put strategic priorities ahead of meaningful action on humanitarian grounds, the desperate plight of these children continues to go largely unreported and unnoticed globally.

The impact of the war on the lives of Yemen’s children has been nothing short of devastating, resulting in the needless deaths of over 750 innocent lives and the serious maiming of a further 1,100. But this long list of casualties is only part of the story. Since March, 1 million children have been internally displaced, 8 million are now food insecure, nearly 1.5 million are acutely malnourished, 7 million are without access to basic healthcare and nearly 3.5 million or approximately 50% of the school age population have not attended school for long periods during the past 10 months.

The humanitarian needs on the ground are therefore astounding. Since the start of the conflict, Save the Children has provided emergency assistance to well over half a million beneficiaries, including 300,000 children. Our response is ongoing in 9 of the 21 conflict effected governorates where thanks to the tireless efforts and professionalism of our national staff we have successfully delivered sectoral response activities in Child Governance, Child Protection, Education FSL, Healthcare, Nutrition and WASH.

We must ensure however that Yemen’s children – the country’s future – are not paying the price for years to come by missing out on opportunities today in this already war ravaged country. Spare a thought for Amjad*, a 15-year-old who has been displaced with his family to Hajjah Governorate, who described to Save the Children staff how all of his dreams have disappeared. He told us: “The war is

tracking us wherever we go. At the beginning of 2015 our camp was hit during an airstrike which killed my brother and my best friend. This forced us to move to a new camp where life is very difficult – there is no food, no water or school. We live in torn and old tents and there is no stability in my life, only fear all the time”.

However, significant impediments to ours and the wider humanitarian community’s ability to meet the population’s growing needs remain. Obviously insecurity, whether it be on the ground or from the air continues to undermine our efforts. As does growing evidence of shrinking humanitarian space and access in many governorates we are currently responding in. However, perhaps most troubling are signs already of donor fatigue, brought on in part by the multiple ongoing humanitarian crises both regionally and globally. Given the sheer scale of the humanitarian catastrophe unfolding in Yemen, this is not the time for donors to lose interest. Without their ongoing support, Yemen will quickly descend into a failed state with catastrophic consequences for its population.

This is why Save the Children is in addition to calling on all parties to the current conflict in Yemen to reach an immediate and permanent ceasefire and embark on a roadmap to a negotiated and inclusive peace agreement, we are also encouraging the international donor community to do more to fund the desperately under resourced response, particularly in the child protection and education sectors in Yemen.

*Names have been changed to protect identity