Yemen is a country that has been devastated by war. Since the Arab Spring of 2011, which saw protests rock the Middle East and North Africa regions, Yemen’s political situation has been fraught with increasing difficulty. A year after protests began, Yemen’s government was overthrown as replaced. However, President Hadi was soon himself overthrown, by Houthi rebels, loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The sectarian divisions inherent in the conflict propelled the involvement of the Middle East’s two most powerful nations, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Houthi rebels are Shia supporters of Saleh, whilst government forces back President Hadi, a Sunni. Saudi Arabia, and a coalition of nine Arab nations have joined the war on the side of President Hadi. Iran has supported, both militarily and with arms, the Houthi rebels. The result has been a devastating and protracted conflict in which Yemen’s people, of whatever persuasion, are undoubtedly the primary victims.
Operation Restoring Hope, as Saudi Arabia has dubbed its intervention, has reduced millions to a state of hopelessness. As the death toll of the conflict rises, civilians pile high among the casualties. It is estimated that a staggering 93% of deaths from the war in Yemen are suffered by non-combatants – and these are not only adults. Child deaths have been rising in this multifaceted conflict. Between March and August, it is estimated that 400 children have died as a result of the war. Though devastating, death is not the only misfortune to befall Yemen’s children.
[via Die Krantenkoppen]
Forced to fight
By witnessing war, Yemen’s children have already had their childhood seized from them. The conscription of minors into combat roles threaten to tear apart from remains of the young population’s innocence. Houthi rebels are said to primarily responsible for recruiting child soldiers, in a conflict where a third of all fighters are said to be under the age of eighteen. Forced to engage in conflict, and witness scenes no child should be expected to see, the emotional scars of conflict will be present in Yemen’s population for decades to come.
The conflict in Yemen has also taken another toll on children. The loss of parents in military attacks on civilians have created legions of orphans in the Middle Eastern nation. Even before the conflict, it was estimated in 2014 that 600,000 children were orphans. The intensification of conflict and towering death toll has only exacerbated an already present issue. With September’s destruction of a Sana’a orphanage by Saudi coalition air strikes, it seems as though even nominal sanctuary is no safe space for Yemen’s children of war. The conflict shows some slight signs of resolution. A recent ceasefire has show shoots of promise. However, the arranged prisoner exchange between warring factions has been abandoned. Yemen may sit on the brink of a continuation of conflict, and once again it will be the children who suffer the most.