Children in armed conflict : Growing up in Yemeni Civil War

Sana’a, Yemen – The Yemeni Civil War has caused insurmountable hardships and suffering on Yemeni children.  Some are assassinated in the streets, some others are tasked with the labour of collecting water, and others are learning amidst the rubble of destroyed schools. While some children are killed, those who survived are plagued by fear due to the violence they witness and are subject to.

Conflicts force children to mature far too early. They are often obliged to provide for their families by going to work or begging in the streets. They cannot exercise their right to education, not even the right to play, and their childhood is irreversibly waisted.  The conflict in Yemen affects all aspects of children’s lives and casts a dark shadow over their innocence.

Yemeni children suffer daily violations of their most basic human rights. The forms of violence they face extend from witnessing violent acts of war and destruction, to killing, injury, or even to their recruitment by armed groups, while others suffer from child labour, child marriage, and trafficking. An estimated 3.2 million children and women in Yemen are severely malnourished, and 50% of all children suffer from permanent stunting.  According to the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, some 7.4 million children in Yemen need humanitarian assistance, indicating a catastrophic humanitarian situation.

Conflict, natural disasters, and migration separate family members who often remain missing for a period whilst others are lost forever.  The Yemeni Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDP) community includes at least 1,200 unaccompanied children and children separated from their families (MCA 2018). Those who know nothing about their lost family members find it very difficult to move forward and lead a normal life, as they always search for those missing and hope for their return.

The psychological consequences borne by children survivors encompass nightmares, sleep disturbances, feelings of guilt, and changing social behaviour, among other things. Daily violence not only disrupts their lives and sense of stability but also instils a fear of the future.  Children who lose parents, siblings, and other family members experience a loss of safety as well.  Without a breadwinner or guardian, many are forced to find economic support by themselves.

An entire generation of Yemeni children face a future of uncertainty and minimal opportunities. The destruction of schools and public areas has also destroyed the space in which many children establish lifelong friendships.  Reducing educational opportunities today means limiting future job and life opportunities.  After 5 years of war, Yemeni children are deprived even of the dream of a normal childhood and a better future.


More on children affected by conflict:

Call to global ceasefire
“A Credible List”: Recommendations for  the Secretary-General’s  2020 Annual Report on  Children and Armed Conflict

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