A 12-year old boy sits cross-legged on the floor of a room he shares with his family, who fled conflict when airstrikes hit near their home in Yemen. Photo credit: Sami Jassar / Save the Children 2020.

Save the Children is helping Ali,* who has a serious health condition. He and his family were displaced from their home in Yemen due to conflict.

Life in Yemen: What’s It Like for Children Growing Up in Conflict?

The war in Yemen is confusing and complicated – but we can’t forget the innocent children caught up in the five-year conflict. The boys and girls of Yemen are living through the worst humanitarian crisis in the world—some growing up knowing nothing but war.

These are some of the shocking realities for children:

  • Almost a fifth of children in Yemen have lost their home.
  • Two million children in Yemen are out of school.
  • One in five schools in Yemen can’t be used because of the conflict.
  • 12.3 million children in Yemen need humanitarian assistance.

Every day, lives are being devastated by war. Families are being torn apart. Children are going to bed hungry. Too many are missing out on school while falling asleep to the sounds of shelling and bombing outside their doors. Now, a new threat—the coronavirus pandemic—has put children in Yemen at even greater risk.

With a surge of suspected COVID-related deaths being reported in Yemen’s city of Aden, hospitals are having to turn away patients. Those with dire health needs, including 2.1 acutely malnourished children, are more vulnerable than ever before. 

Yemen Humanitarian Assistance Graphic

Children Growing Up in Conflict Have Unmet Critical Needs

It’s impossible for anyone to understand what life is like for children growing up in conflict. For children to be well, they need to feel safe and loved, and to have their basic needs met. They need to be cared for by their family and to be supported by their community – for example, through school. But for millions of children living in conflict zones, these critical needs are unmet. The impact of conflict on children’s health – both physical and mental – is devastating.

Each airstrike, siege and grave violation can have serious negative consequences on children’s mental health and well-being, now and for years to come. 

Yemen homelessness graphic

Life as a 12-Year Child Who Is Growing Up in Yemen

Ali,* now 12-years-old, was very young when he and his family were displaced from their home in Sana’a because of intense bombing in the area. One morning, the family woke up and eight homes in the area had been destroyed. That’s when they decided to leave. They went to Ali’s cousins’ house for a day in another part of Sana’a to make arrangements. Then, they travelled to Taiz in South West Yemen.

But when the family settled into a new home, Ali started having health problems. He had a blood clot and was diagnosed as having kidney complications. As his father lost his job when they fled to Taiz, the family could not afford to pay for his treatment.

Save the Children, though the support of our donors, has supported Ali and his family with shelter, clothes while helping Ali get medical care and medication.

Yemen schools in conflict graphic

Growing Up in Conflict: The Impact on Children’s Mental Health

While the conflict in Yemen threatens the physical health of children, it also poses grave risk to their mental wellbeing. 

In a survey by Save the Children, more than half of children said they struggle with feelings of sadness and depression, with more than one in ten feeling that way constantly. Around one in five of the surveyed children said they are always afraid.

Children have lost loved ones to bombs and diseases, they see violence around them every day, they are afraid their brothers and sisters won’t return from school. The constant psychological strain manifests itself in many ways: for example, 56% of children don’t feel safe when walking alone, 16% of children say they are never or rarely able to relax, and 38% of caregivers reported an increase in the children’s nightmares.

It is estimated that approximately 24 million children living in conflict zones around the world today could be experiencing high levels of stress and have mild to moderate mental health. An additional 7 million children are at risk of developing severe mental health disorders.

Hope for Children Growing Up in Conflict

Since the beginning of Yemen’s ongoing crisis, Save the Children has reached more than three million children like Ali with critical support. As the coronavirus continues to impact children, families and communities, our teams are working around the clock to deliver vital health services.

The challenge has never been as great, with only half of Yemen’s health facilities still fully functional. There are only 60 intensive care unit beds for children, and a mere 500 ventilators for a population of 27.5 million.

As the global leader in child-focused humanitarian response, Save the Children has a strong history of responding to pandemic threats, including the recent outbreaks of cholera and dengue fever. We are now addressing immediate needs of families and communities to prevent and mitigate the spread and impact of COVID-19. But we can’t do it without your support. Please donate today. 

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