An airstrike by the Saudi- and Emirati-led coalition hit a school bus, killing 40 children and injuring dozens more. Ismail, age 8, was on the bus when it was attacked and sustained serious injuries. Although he can now walk, he is still afraid to go out of the house and play.

A Year After His School Bus Was Attacked, a Little Boy In Yemen Is Still Dreaming of a Safe Future

One day in August 2018, a family in Saada, Yemen was having a busy morning while getting ready for the day ahead. Seven-year-old Ismail* was eager to head to school, where he and his young classmates would enjoy a special day. They had an exciting school trip planned.

Ismail’s mother prepared him breakfast. His father gave him a small amount of spending money. He also urged his son to be careful on the trip and to stick close to his friends – the same tender advice given a thousand times over by a thousand fathers all over the world. Except this day would be different for Ismail and his father.

Just a short time later, Ismail’s father heard a heartbreaking noise. It was an airstrike. People everywhere were running.

“I ask the people in the street, ‘What happened,’” Ismail’s father recalls. “They said an airstrike had hit very nearby. The people told me that the airstrike hit the bus. I said no, they didn’t hit the bus.”

Ismail’s father watched in horror as a live broadcast of the blast showed children’s bodies lying in the street.

A father’s worst fears were coming true. The airstrike hit Ismail’s bus. 40 children were killed. Many others were injured.

Thankfully, Ismail survived the airstrike. But not without serious injury. Fragments of shrapnel flew into his eye, as well as his leg and his little toe. He also suffered a broken foot.

Ismail’s schoolmate died in the attack. Two of his cousins were injured.

Ismail, pictured here in September 2018 just one month after his school bus was attacked. In addition to a broken foot, Ismail sustained severe injuries from flying shrapnel. Photo credit: Mohammed Awadh / Save the Children, Sept 2018.

 

“I was not conscious until I was at hospital,” the eight-year old explained.

“The only thing he remembers,” his father said, “is holding onto something. Suddenly, he found himself on the ground. Every time he remembers what happens, he cries.”

In the aftermath of the bus attack, Save the Children provided Ismail and his father with financial support to pay for medical costs and transportation fees to and from the hospital.

A year later, Ismail and his classmates were dealing with ongoing daily physical and psychological struggles of being injured in a horrific attack, against the backdrop of an ongoing conflict.

An eight-year old boy is pictured sitting inside a home in Yemen. The boy was on a school bus riding through Saada, Yemen, when the bus was bombed. 40 children under the age of 10 were killed. He survived but not without significant injuries. He had shrapnel fragments next to his eye, in his leg and in his little toe. His foot was broken. Save the Children helped provide the boy with medical care and now, his physical injuries have healed. Since May 2015, through donor support, Save the Children has reached more than 2 million children with lifesaving assistance. Photo credit: Sami M. Jassar / Save the Children, July 2019.

 

Save the Children was the first international non-governmental organization to be registered in Yemen and has worked in the country since 1963. After the escalation of the conflict in March 2015, we scaled up our response to meet the immense needs of Yemeni children and their families.

In 2019, we helped 1.7 million children in Yemen, supported 88 health facilities and 23 hospitals providing lifesaving care. We’re still hard at work to protect vulnerable children and families, but we need your help.

“Since (the attack), there has been no justice for the victims, survivors and their families,” said Jason Lee, deputy country director for Save the Children in Yemen, “and daily grave violations of children’s rights continue across the country.”

After almost six years since the brutal conflict in Yemen escalated, more than 2 million children under five in Yemen do not have enough food to eat, with over 2,200 on the brink of starving to death.

Parents are having to witness their children wasting away, unable to do anything about it. 

“War is not good,” Ismail said, “I wish it could stop now.”

In addition to wishing for the war to end, Ismail also dreams of becoming a doctor one day. He wants to help other children who are “not feeling well.”

“My son is really hurt from inside,” Ismail’s father said. “We try to talk to him to feel better and we can’t stop ourselves from crying.”

Save the Children has been responding to the crisis in Yemen since 2015. With the support of our donors, over the past six years, our multifaceted response has reached more than 2 million children. Despite the hunger, the poverty and the bombs, we will continue to fight for Yemen’s children. To learn more about our work in Yemen, visit SavetheChildren.org/Yemen

*Name changed for protection

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