Endless suffering of children after years of war, aid crisis

The United Nations

The Yemen conflict killed or maimed 2,600 children as hostilities intensified in 2019 and 2020; that’s according to a new report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed conflict in the country.

Published on Monday, the report detailed how these youngsters were victims of the indiscriminate use of mortar and artillery shelling, ground fighting, anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war.

In total, more than 3,500 children suffered one or more grave violations; chief among these was the denial of humanitarian access, killing and maiming, and the recruitment and use of children.

‘Scarred for life’

Issuing the findings, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said that “the atrocities and immense suffering” would likely leave a generation of Yemeni children “scarred for life”.

“It is urgent for all parties to actively work towards a political solution of the conflict if they hope to save children from further harm”, she said. “Boys and girls are the future of Yemen. Parties to conflict must protect them from use and abuse and start treating children as the precious asset they are”,

The verification of information for all grave violations recorded on the ground was difficult, the report notes, and the intensity of the conflict and hostilities also hindered the ability to document and verify violations. Rhe COVID-19 pandemic and related restrictions further exacerbated these existing access challenges.

111 children held

The deprivation of liberty of some 111 children, held for alleged association with opposing parties to the conflict, is also a major concern.

The Special Representative said that children should be considered primarily as victims, “and depriving them of their liberty should only be used as a last resort and for the shortest period, in accordance with international juvenile justice standards”, the report added.

Ms. Gamba called on the international community to continue to support the reintegration of released children, including through the Global Coalition for Reintegration of Child Soldiers.

Attacks on education continued, with 37 recorded attacks on schools, and the military use of 80 schools, further impairing the right of boys and girls to an education. More than two million children are currently out of the classroom.

Hope in dialogue

The report outlined the UN’s dialogue with parties to conflict, and the progress made by the Government of Yemen in the implementation of its action plan to end and prevent child recruitment and use of children, signed in 2014 and of the Roadmap adopted in 2018, which “has led to a significant decrease for this violation.”

The Special Representative echoed the UN Secretary-General’s call for a nationwide ceasefire by all parties to the conflict, and to continue their engagement with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen towards the resumption of an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated political settlement.

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