As a now year-long conflict in Yemen continues, “children are paying the highest price,” said the U.N. in a recent statement. One year ago, Houthi rebels drove out President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and the state of Yemen has been in a state of civil war since. A Saudi-led coalition has sought to reestablish President Hadi, but has been largely unsucessful in its attempts to counter the Houthi rebels and their allies. A cease fire has been scheduled for April 10, and peace talks are to take place soon after in Kuwait, but the fighting has ravaged the already-weak state during the past year.
While the fighting has affected the entire population of Yemen, children have been the most affected. UNICEF reported that, in the last week alone, 934 children have been killed, with 1,356 have been wounded. According to the organization, an average of 6 children have been killed or wounded every day in Yemen for the past year (but the real average is likely higher, due to lack of reporting). The conflict has also proved devastating to critical infrastructure that affects the safety and well-being of children; UNICEF reports that 51 schools have been attacked in the past year, and other infrastructure such as hospitals, as well as electricity and water supply have been negatively affected. There has also been a surge in child soldier recruitment (including children as young as 10) by various groups, but particularly among the Houthis. Said Yemen UNICEF representative Julien Harneis: “Children are not safe anywhere in Yemen.”
This unfortunate reality is one that has been overlooked, especially in light of other regional conflicts such as ISIS. Children are often overlooked in conflict, but they often represent the most negatively affected group. Additionally, they are important players in post-conflict processes; if societies post-conflict do not have safe, healthy, and empowered children, then lasting peace becomes more unlikely.
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