Yemen Conflict: Children Under Fire

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Fairfield, Conn. (April 21, 2015) — A child has been killed and a further 48 children wounded after a daylight airstrike by the Saudi-led military coalition set off a huge explosion near a residential area south of Yemen's capital city Sana'a yesterday.

The aerial attack killed an estimated 39 civilians and badly injured 547, five of whom are children currently in a critical condition in hospital, according to latest Ministry of Health reports.

The explosion appears to have targeted a military base, but scores of nearby houses and vehicles in the residential Faj Attan district were destroyed, with collateral damage from the blast reaching a diameter of 5km. The area is home to at least five schools.

"Children are at huge risk of injury and death as a result of the violence. The explosion yesterday, one of the biggest affecting the capital since the airstrike campaign started, offers a tragic example of the impact of using explosive weapons in populated areas, and illustrates the difficulties of operating in a context of full-on warfare," says Edward Santiago, country director for Save the Children, Yemen.

"There have been reports of dead bodies in the streets, with injured civilians having major difficulties accessing medical help due to the fuel shortage. Hospitals all over Yemen are extremely short of drugs, medical supplies or blood, and Sana'a's only blood bank is now likely to be foul due to no electricity.

"Most houses have lost their windows and people are now reportedly evacuating the area because they expect more airstrikes in the coming days."

Between March 26 and April 18, 405 civilians, including 29 women and 86 children, were killed in Yemen, according to the latest figures from the UN. Schools have been closed since airstrikes started taking place during the daytime, raising concerns about the number of children missing valuable education and exams.

"As of April 16, the total number of children out of school due to the ongoing crisis reached 1.85 million – which has almost doubled from reports last week – and the total number of schools affected has reached almost 3,500. Before this latest explosion the number of schools affected at 48, with 19 in Saa'da, and 28 in the South of the country," says Santiago.

Yesterday's explosion also hit the agency's main office and guest house, injuring three members of staff – the fourth Save the Children office damaged since the airstrike campaign started.

"We have had to close down the Sana'a office until this weekend at least. Our priority is the safety of our staff, but in a context where the population was already extremely vulnerable, most of our operations are life-saving," explains Santiago.

"Even stopping for a few days could cost lives, especially of children, with up to 850,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in the poorest Arab country."

"Without the support of the main office, the other nine field sites will struggle to operate and could rapidly run out of cash, which could affect, for example, 11,500 people benefiting from general food distribution in Hajja or 3,000 receiving cash transfers in Hudeida," he adds.

Save the Children calls on all parties to the conflict to immediately end the violence and seek a negotiated solution to the conflict. Access to humanitarian aid, which is impeded by the insecurity and the ongoing naval blockade, must be prioritized and all efforts must be taken to ensure that civilians, particularly children, are protected and spared from the effects of the violence, and international humanitarian and human rights law must be upheld by warring parties at all times.

Every day, children around the world are severely affected by crises and events which are out of their control. No one knows when, or where, the next crisis will occur. For nearly 100 years, Save the Children has been on the front lines of emergency and humanitarian responses around the world. Our Children’s Emergency Fund was established to provide assistance to children in their time of greatest need.

Save the Children invests in childhood — every day, in times of crisis and for our future. In the United States and around the world, we give children a healthy start, the opportunity to learn and protection from harm. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook.

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