Mellanöstern och Nordafrika Tidningen
Published On: Mon, Sep 17th, 2018

How many Children have to die?

The exact number of Yemeni children killed by Saudi bombing and malnutrition caused by the war has yet to be officially determined, but the number is certainly in the thousands. Overall the fighting and its consequences are said to have taken the lives of 50,000 Yemeni children in 2017, with 130 children dying each day, according to Save the Children. On August 9th, 40 children died from an American-supplied bomb and 56 more were wounded while on a school trip. The Saudi-led coalition originally claimed it was a legitimate target, only to admit later that they had been mistaken. Such mistakes do not bring the dead to life. 

Scene from Al Jazeera video on recent Saudi bombing in Yemen

This week a bomb was dropped on a house with internally displaced persons.  Two children were killed in addition to their mother.  A video on Al Jazeera records the search and discovery of the victims. It is a disheartening scene to watch as the hopes of finding the children alive quickly faded. These were innocent children. “What was their guilt, why were they killed?” pleads one of the rescuers. If you can stomach watching this video of a needless tragedy, compare it to this video of the wedding of a Saudi prince, a wedding said to be one of the most expensive ever. Which one makes you want to throw up?

UNICEF reports that hundreds of thousands of Yemeni children are suffering from malnutrition. In addition, “11 million children are facing the threat of food shortages, disease, displacement and acute lack of access to basic social services.”  This is 80% of the population under 18 years in Yemen. More than three million children have been born into war during the last three years of war.  Try to imagine their chances of survival as this war drags on.

The killing of civilians, no matter the gender or age, is always a hideous part of war, all the worse when those doing the killing refuse to admit their atrocities. In this case it is even more pathetic. As reported in the Middle East Monitor: 

‘Do not care about international criticism,’ Bin Salman is alleged to have told his officers, a reference to the international condemnation of military operations against civilians in Yemen, particularly raids that kill women and children. ‘We want to leave a big impact on the consciousness of Yemeni generations. We want their children, women and even their men to shiver whenever the name of Saudi Arabia is mentioned’.

It is the name of Crown Prince Bin Salman, not the Saudi people, that should send shivers up everyone’s spine, but only because the wealthy prince condones the murder of women and children as though they were animals for his royal feasts.

The atrocities in this war on Yemen are more and more apparent in the press, as is the complicity of Western powers in supplying the weapons and advice that keeps the war going. Even the U.S. Congress is thinking about stopping weapons’ sales to the greedy Gulf States, despite Trump’s expressed love for tyrants. Yet the leaders who could negotiate a peaceful settlement continue to act like children, with the Saudis and no-longer-legitimate government of Hadi trying to gain an advantage and force the other side into total submission. 

No side in this conflict is innocent; all sides have engaged in war crimes. But it is the Saudi bombing, whether targeting civilians or due to sheer ineptness, that is killing Yemen’s children.  In July the UN issued a report on children’s deaths in 2017 alone:

It verified that out of the 552 children killed (398 boys, 154 girls), the majority – 370 – were attributed to the coalition, which was also blamed for 300 child injuries.

The Houthis were responsible for 83 children killed and 241 wounded; the pro-government Popular Resistance group for 41 casualties;  other international forces fighting for Yemen’s government for 19 casualties; al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) for 10 casualties; and the Yemeni Armed Forces, among other parties, for four casualties.

Fifty-one percent of the total 1,316 casualties were caused by air attacks, the report said.

The second leading cause was ground fighting, including shelling and shooting (136 killed, 334 injured), followed by explosive remnants of war and mines (27 killed, 119 injured).

How many children have to die before this war is stopped?  Do we really need to pick a number?

About the Author

- Anthropologist and historian with 40 years of experience researching and working in Yemen. Varisco is currently the President of the American Institute for Yemeni Studies, Senior Fellow at the Annemarie Schimmel Kolleg of Bonn University, and an expert advisor to MENA Tidningen.