Five years of armed conflict has inflicted innumerable barbarity on the children of Yemen. As the war escalates in the country, children fall victim to life-threatening diseases, malnutrition, starvation, poverty, loss of education, child abuse while being maimed by the war itself. Now, COVID-19 slowly sweeps through the nation, further pushing the UN (United Nations) declared ‘world’s worst humanitarian crisis’ on the brink of devastation.
“The impact of the conflict in Yemen runs deep and has not spared a single child,” said a UN official. Yemen’s crumbling healthcare toppled with its dwindling economy caused 80% of its twenty-four million population seeking immediate life-saving assistance. Over 12.3 million children are desperately in need of aid, according to UNICEF.
Severe Health Issues
Apart from the ongoing war, thousands of children have succumbed to malnutrition. The UN estimates that the grim situation in Yemen will likely cause malnourishment in 2.4 million children under the age of five, which is a 20 percent rise and covers almost half of the under-five population.
Additionally, some ‘30,000 children could develop life-threatening severe acute malnutrition over the next six months’ and 6,000 children could die of preventable diseases such as ‘diarrhea, malnutrition, and respiratory tract infections.’ These figures denote a 28 percent rise in expected deaths.
The children who suffer severe hunger die of vital organ failure and also have a weak immune system. This weak immune system makes them easily susceptible to infections and viruses such as COVID-19.
Crippling Healthcare System
“The health system is on the brink of collapse,” according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Years of war and airstrikes have left half of the hospitals in Yemen nonoperational. The remaining medical facilities have a shortage of equipment, supplies, and beds for the patients.
The healthcare system in Yemen is loosely hanging on by a thread, and the rampant spread of COVID-19 further exposed the unavailability of primary healthcare to its citizens. Medical staff quit their jobs, fearing infections with no supply of personal protective equipment (PPE), and infection control measures gave rise to a massive shortage of staff. Infected people fail to reach hospitals in time, and those that do cannot be treated due to lack of space.
Save the Children reported an 80 percent dip in the number of people accessing child care services. Many children in urgent need of medical assistance are left behind due to the partially functioning hospitals, its inability to admit patients and lack of resources. Families living in poverty cannot afford hospital and transportation charges to treat their children.
No Access to Education
The number of children and teenagers dropping out of school has dramatically risen this year due to coronavirus. “Before COVID-19 hit, two million children were out of school. Now schools have been closed around the country, an additional 5.8 million children are out of education,” UNICEF reports.
219 schools have been attacked since the inception of the war in 2015. These schools are then turned into military spots. Over 199 schools have already been converted for military use. War increased the chances of being killed or injured in schools. As many as 3153 children were killed and 5660 injured (some left with permanent disabilities) over the years, making it one of the main reasons for children to drop out.
As poverty increases, families find it feasible to marry off their girl child or send their male child off to war frontline in exchange for money. Child marriage, child trafficking and child labor are at an all-time high.
The UN fears the unlikability of rejoining education and literacy of the upcoming generations due to the civil unrest. “This is the generation that Yemen will rely on to rebuild when the devastating conflict comes to an end. It is essential that they are able to realize their full potential,” stated WFP.
innocent victims of war
Children and teenagers are said to be lured or forced into fighting by their families to earn money. Since 2015, 3467 children have been recruited to ‘fight, patrol checkpoints and work as guards.’ Girls and boys are abducted and coerced to fight. 98 percent recruited are boys, of which 435 are abductees.
A UN investigation recently revealed reports on the creation of ‘female force’ with teenage girls used as “spies, recruiters of other children, guards, medics, and members of the Zainabiyat.”
Thousands of innocent children fall victims to war, airstrikes, and bombings between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia.
Failure to Seek Aid
80 percent of the Yemeni population lives below the poverty line due to years of inflation and ascending food prices. Twenty million families struggle to find food, water and shelter, and international funds organized by the UN caters to these needs.
Over 10 million people in Yemen are recipients of the emergency aid by the UN every month, along with additional assistance to healthcare centers. This year, the UN fell short of funding and received only 30 percent of its total estimated sum. “Only USD 1 billion of the USD 3.2 billion necessary had been received,” they reported.
Three hundred healthcare centers have already been cut off from funding, and 31 of the 40 major programs will be closed. Without additional assistance, millions will likely die of poverty and starvation. This will only further aggravate the existing catastrophic condition of the children in Yemen.
This article is sourced with the help of information from UNICEF.