In Yemen, the poorest country of the Middle East, nearly one in two residents are living below the poverty line. In every case, children are the most vulnerable face of poverty. Their health, their well-being, and even their survival are seriously affected. Despite the historic gains made for children since the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child 30 years ago by the United Nations General Assembly, Yemen remains among the worst children’s countries in the world.
The country is experiencing the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with almost 80% of the population. – More than 24 million people – need some form of humanitarian assistance and protection. According to recent reports to UNICEF and United Nations organizations, one in five children under the age of five in different parts of Yemen is suffering from severe malnutrition, while preventable diseases continue to kill many of them. The escalation of the conflict in Yemen, the economic decline and the grave impact of the Corona pandemic have pushed already exhausted people to the brink.
Impact of conflict on children status and catastrophic rights abuse
Malnutrition is also one of the major problems in Yemen where it is seen in record numbers. The harmful consequences of malnutrition on the health of young Yemenis are numerous. For example, nearly one third of children between 2 and 5 years old suffer from serious retardation. Experts confirm that in the first 1,000 days of life, if a child suffers from malnutrition, whether severe or acute, it will have a catastrophic effect on the child’s development and on the brain development of children at this stage.
Children’s health is equally affected by inadequate access to water. The lack of hygiene and hydration largely supports the spread of epidemics, as well as the aggravation of illnesses that were previously benign. More than 9.5 million children without access to a safe source of water or adequate sanitation and children in Yemen struggle to survive literally.
Furthermore, the establishments are seriously unhealthy, the structures are extremely insufficient and in poor condition. Consequentially, the children’s health and hygiene suffers in these schools, where very often there are no bathrooms or recreational areas.
The presence of armed forces in the country makes travel to school difficult and dangerous. The children are terrified at the idea of crossing the roads in Yemen to go to school. The parents, who are often just as frightened as their children, often let them stay at home.
The education system is on the brink of collapse while the salaries of teachers and school workers are not paid since three years, and the health system has the same problem, about 51% of health facilities are in operation, and there is a large shortage of medicines and medical supplies. Many children are not able to access important vaccines such as measles and polio, which will have an impact on their future and on their physical and cognitive development. Every ten minutes a child dies from a preventable disease.
Two million outside the school, thousands killed, maimed or recruited.
The economy is in a dire state, and families are no longer able to adapt. Support systems and infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, water and sanitation, are failing.
Save the Children, based in Britain, said that many of Yemen’s children live on bread and water with devastating effects on their health, exacerbating the ongoing hunger and malnutrition crisis and shortening their physical and mental development. In its report, Save the Children noted that, along with currency collapse and rising prices for food and fuel commodities, customs duties also doubled and Sana’a Airport remained closed for the fifth consecutive year, preventing goods and medicines from entering the country, exacerbating the crisis and pushing more children towards the famine.
The prevalence of forced labor in this country is all the more serious, as the abuse of these children is abundant. From sexual exploitation to slave treatment, these children are the objects of cruelty and malice. The trade of children is still present today in Yemen. Sometimes it is even the families that put their children in the trafficking networks. Furthermore, other children see an abominable fate in the trafficking of organ transplants.
The situation is alarming in Yemen because nearly 80% of births are not officially declared to public authorities. This disturbing percentage results partly from the costs of registering, which remain at a high level, despite the efforts of the country. So, these children don’t have an official identity, or nationality. This will lead to very large difficulties for these people, because they can’t enjoy their rights as they are considered to be invisible in the eyes of society.
The country continues to execute minors in complete violation of the fundamental rights of minors. So, children stopped by police forces live in miserable circumstances, entirely mixed with the adult prisoners.
All of the most serious violations mentioned in the world are carried out in Yemen in the eyes of the international community. Efforts to protect children and save their lives are not on the scale of the disaster. It is unreasonable, nowadays, for children and innocent people to die of hunger and diseases because of the siege.
International humanitarian law prohibits starvation as a method of warfare, as well as the destruction of objects indispensable for the survival of civilians.
United Nations reports by UNICEF and medical experts warned against ignoring the problem of child malnutrition so that if the international community did not act urgently to address child malnutrition, we risked losing an entire generation. The United Nations in Yemen reiterates its appeal to all parties to the conflict to facilitate sustainable and unconditional access for humanitarian organizations so that they can raise the level of assistance to meet the growing demand for the people most in need of assistance.
Efforts must be made to develop concrete mechanisms that will lead to practical and prompt action on the ground and that will be applicable to save children and innocent people from hunger and disease and protect them from the grave violations to which they are subjected.