The impact of explosive violence on children in Yemen

Children at Darwan refugee camp in Sana’a, Yemen  Children at Darwan refugee camp in Sana’a, Yemen © Mohammed Hamoud/Anadolu Agency

This is a brief presentation of AOAV’s report on the impact of explosive violence on children since the beginning of the war in Yemen 

In October 2020, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) - a British research centre with the mission of investigating the global incidence of armed violence - issued a report on the impact of explosive violence on Yemenite children since the outbreak of the war in 2014. During this conflict, explosive violence has caused the death of 8,736 civilians and the injury of 9,755. An average of 50 children are killed each month and around 90 are injured or permanently disabled. 

According to AOAV’s report, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, supported by the UK and the US, are to be considered responsible for 67% of reported civilian casualties in the Yemenite war. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, according to AOAV, airstrikes have resulted in the death of 1,372 children and the wounding of 916. Moreover, the coalition’s airstrikes have been increasing since summer 2020, which will most likely result in more children losing their lives as a consequence of such attacks. 

Cluster munitions constitute another threat to child safety in Yemen. The coalition of Riyad has used 7 different types of cluster munitions for 23 times since 2015. In addition, cluster munitions also have devastating side effects, resulting from unexploded submunitions which create actual minefields. Submunitions are usually mistaken for toys by children because of their size and shape. While the deploy of cluster munitions has decreased since 2017, unexploded submunitions still pose a serious threat to the safety of Yemenite children. 

Landmines have caused at least 5,500 casualties in Yemen since the beginning of the conflict. Besides their devastating direct consequences, landmines also have serious side effects on child safety. For instance, Houthi rebels deliberately mine wells and water facilities preventing children from having access to clean water. Landmines also pose a serious obstacle to the delivery of humanitarian assistance. According to the report, three different NGOs claimed they were unable to reach communities in dire need of assistance because of landmines placed on key roads. 

Houthi rebels have been indiscriminately using rockets and mortars in populated areas since the beginning of the war, leading to the death of 189 children, according to AOAV. Many of the attacks carried out by the Saudi-led coalition were targeted against schools and educational facilities, leading to devastating consequences for children. Not only do they risk death and injuries, but children who are out of school also face the risk of being recruited or kidnapped by armed groups. 

Besides the physical threat posed by explosive violence, children also have to face serious psychological consequences. According to Save the Children, close and prolonged proximity to explosive violence has had a “devastating impact on the mental health of an entire generation of children”. As emerged from a survey conducted on 1,250 Yemenite children, 20% of them claimed to be always afraid, 52% said they never felt safe when apart from their parents and 16% said they were never able to relax. Bedwetting, hyper-vigilance, nightmares, depression and anxiety are some of the most common symptoms indicating child trauma. 

As demonstrated in AOAV’s report, the long-lasting war in Yemen has deeply impacted children’s lives in multiple ways, both direct and indirect, and will have lifelong consequences for them. 93% of Yemenite children are now in need of humanitarian assistance and one in five has lost their home. Unfortunately, this dramatic situation is not likely to improve soon, with both parties carrying on deliberate and systematic violence and abuses. 


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Author: Margherita Curti; Editor: Matteo Consiglio

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