The New Arab Logo

Breaking News
Yemen's children: Between psychological trauma and physical starvation Open in fullscreen

The New Arab

Yemen's children: Between psychological trauma and physical starvation

Most of the children in Yemen carry emotional burdens into adulthood [Getty]

Date of publication: 30 March, 2016

Share this page:
  • 0

  • twitter
Children in Yemen are under immense suffering, a UNICEF report released on Tuesday has found, as cases of malnutrition, starvation and psychological trauma have significantly increased.
As she has every night for many weeks past, six-year-old Fatima al-Khadi wakes up in the middle of the night calling for her parents.

And as in every one of those nights, the ever-present backdrop to her cries are sounds of explosions and the rumbles of firing guns, their shrieks engulfing Yemen's capital and Fatima's home.

The psychological effects of war on Fatima have been severe, her father tells The New Arab.

"We live by the city's international airport, which has come under severe and continuous bombardment since the Saudi-led coalition started targeting it," he said.

With airstrikes now a consistent feature of life both day and night in the capital, nightmares now puncture every one of Fatima's attempts to sleep at night.

Accounts of the physical and psychological trauma of children are flooding out of Yemen's regions as the now one-year-old war shows no real signs of abating.

Yemeni families find themselves unable to hide their children away from the violence that has taken over the country since the Saudi-led coalition began heavy aerial bombardments of Yemen in an attempt to drive away Houthi rebels from the capital city.
The impoverished nation of Yemen, a country of 26 million, which imports 90 percent of its food, had one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world before the war
Meanwhile, in another Yemeni home, the skeletal body of a clearly malnourished five-month-old baby lay completely still.

Udai Faisal's limbs are as thin and delicate as twigs, his cheeks sunken in and his eyes dry.
 
At least six million children in Yemen are in danger [Getty]
"He didn't cry and there were no tears," his mother said, the baby just "turned stiff."

"I screamed and fainted." Intissar Hezzam said about the final momemts of her childs life.

The impoverished nation of Yemen, a country of 26 million, which imports 90 percent of its food, had one of the highest malnutrition rates in the world before the war.

But in the past year cases of malnutrition and starvation have leaped.

Ten of the country's 22 provinces are classified as one step away from famine.
The conflict is deepening poverty and deprivation, keeping children locked in a vicious cycle of violence, loss and uncertainty.
- UNICEF
Where before the war around 690,000 children under five suffered moderate malnutrition, now the number is 1.3 million.

Even more alarming are the rates of severe acute malnutrition among children - the worst cases where the body starts to waste away - doubling from around 160,000 a year ago to 320,000 now, according to UNICEF estimates.

"The scale of suffering in the country is staggering," UNICEF said in its recent report released on Tuesday.

The violence "will have an impact for generations to come" it adds.

The report also found that if children survive the bombs and bullets, the impact of the violence remains detrimental.
"The conflict is deepening poverty and deprivation, keeping children locked in a vicious cycle of violence, loss and uncertainty," the UNICEF found.

With 50 percent of Yemen's population under 18-years of age, at least six million children are in danger.

"Living in violent environments, children experience what no child should witness. The destruction of their homes or the death of their parents, siblings or friends," UNICEF warned.

The fighting in Yemen has killed more than 900 children and wounded over 1,300, 61 percent of them in airstrikes, according to UNICEF.
Coalition airstrikes appear to be responsible for twice as many casualties as all other forces put together
- Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein
Eight-year-old Asma al-Safyani used to play outside everyday with her friends from the neighbourhood. But since the start of the war, her mother does not let her leave the house.

"Two of the children she played with were killed in an airstrike," Asma's mother told The New Arab. "She has been very sad and she hardly smiles, but I just cannot take the risk."

Coalition airstrikes appear to be "responsible for twice as many casualties as all other forces put together," Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein, UN's high commissioner for human rights said.

The Saudi-led coalition argues that Houthi rebels often use civilians and civilian locations as shields for their fighters.

It also disputes the UN figures on how many deaths are caused by strikes, saying they are based on statistics from the Houthis.

Yet, many of Yemen's children will carry these emotional burdens into adulthood - if they live to make it that far.

Agencies contributed to this report

The New ArabComments

Most Popular

Most Popular

    Read More