At least 443 children in Yemen have been killed or injured in air strikes over the past year, according to a leading global charity.
To mark four years since Saudi Arabia started bombing Houthis rebels in Yemen, new analysis by Save The Children says that air strikes by a coalition of Arab states led to 226 children dying and 217 being injured in the past 12 months. The coalition has used bombs made in Scotland.
Save The Children says the figures are “likely conservative” as not all civilian casualties in Yemen are reported publicly. They also do not include huge numbers of deaths from the knock-on effects of war, such as starvation and disease.
The children’s charity said that open source reports compiled by the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project recorded a total 969 child casualties – 393 deaths and 576 injuries – from “direct conflict-related violence” in Yemen over the last year. These included casualties from air strikes.
The Saudi-led coalition deploys UK warplanes dropping smart-bombs made in Fife. It has been accused of scores of war crimes since March 2015 after schools, hospitals, bused and residential areas were hit and thousands of civilians killed.
The Ferret has reported that Paveway IV bombs made by US arms firm, Raytheon, at its factory in Glenrothes have been linked to alleged breaches of international humanitarian war by the Saudi-led coalition. The Houthis have also been accused of war crimes during a prolonged conflict that has caused a humanitarian catastrophe in one of the region’s poorest nations.
Hundreds of Paveway IV bombs have been sold to Saudi Arabia. But the UK government has been under constant pressure for several years now to suspend arms sales due to multiple claims of war crimes by the coalition.
Ministers are facing a legal challenge over these arms sales by Campaign Against Arms Trade which is due to be heard next month in London.
Save the Children previously estimated that 85,000 children under the age of five may have died from extreme hunger since the conflict escalated on 26 March 2015.
Nearly 400,000 children will need treatment for severe malnutrition this year alone, according to the United Nations (UN).
“For a fourth long year children have continued to pay the price for this vicious war,” said George Graham, Save the Children’s director of conflict and humanitarian advocacy.
“Hundreds of children are being killed in their homes and in the streets by bombs and shells. Hundreds of thousands are being starved and left defenceless in the face of killer outbreaks of disease.”
He added: “Our teams are treating those children we can, but we cannot reach them all. Britain has the power to help put a stop to this terror, at the UN and through its influence with allies.
“But right now the UK’s vital diplomatic and humanitarian efforts in Yemen are being undermined by continuing to sell arms to the Saudi-led coalition. It’s words, not weapons, that will end this crisis.”
Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “As the war enters its fifth year, the humanitarian crisis is only getting worse. Thousands of people have been killed and vital infrastructure has been destroyed. Like in all wars, it is civilians who are paying the terrible price.
“This war could not be fought without the fighter jets and bombs being produced and sold by arms dealing governments like the UK. If the Government wants to do the right thing for the people of Yemen then it must finally stop arming and supporting the brutal Saudi regime.”
The UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office stressed that the UK is doing all that it can to help find a way to end the “devastating” conflict. “We are putting our full weight behind the work of UN Special Envoy, Martin Griffiths, and the UN-led peace process, and have been actively urging the international community to do the same,” said a spokesperson.
“It is the only way to finding a lasting solution to the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.”
Meanwhile Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) said that four days of intense fighting in the Yemeni city of Taiz had left people unable to access healthcare, with at least one public hospital forced to close.
People are made of stories, not atoms. Caroline Ducarme, Médecins Sans Frontières
The international doctors’ organisation warned that urban warfare in densely populated areas is having devastating consequences for civilians and preventing war wounded from accessing life-saving care in Taiz city.
“We are worried that wounded people are trapped between front lines, and many of them are not able to reach health facilities inside or outside of the city,” said Caroline Ducarme, MSF head of mission in Yemen.
“Across three MSF-supported facilities within Taiz city, medical teams have received 49 war wounded and two dead upon arrival over the last four days. However, we do not know the true total number of wounded in need of emergency assistance.”
In one MSF-supported public hospital, medical teams reported that a severely wounded patient was forcibly taken out of the operating theatre and prevented from receiving much needed medical care.
“There is a continued need for increased protection of health facilities,” added Ducarme.
“Patients tell us that they can’t access hospitals due to clashes and roadblocks, and there is a fear that hospitals may be attacked. As a result of this fear, people are taking their relatives out of hospitals. Some medical staff have left their jobs as they are so afraid for their safety.”