Children are paying a heavy price for continued war on Yemen, led by Saudi Arabia, bent on reinstating deposed president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
According to the United Nations, some 402 children have been killed by Saudi-led airstrikes since the war began in March. Incidents documented by the UN’s Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting suggest that thousands of kids have also been severely wounded.
In what the UN has described as “wanton disregard” for the lives of civilians, the Saudi-led airstrikes have targeted schools, severely limiting education opportunities for children in the embattled Arab nation of 26 million people – 80 percent of whom now require emergency humanitarian assistance.
According to UNICEF, 114 schools have been destroyed and 315 damaged, while 360 have been converted into shelters for the displaced. On the eve of the new school year, UNICEF says the ongoing airstrikes will prevent 3,600 schools from re-opening, interrupting access to education for 1.8 million children.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) teams in Yemen say they have “witnessed pregnant women and children dying after arriving too late at the health center because of petrol shortages or having to hole up for days on end while waiting for a lull in the fighting.” MSF also faults Saudi-led bombings for civilian deaths and scores of casualties.
As it stands, Yemen provides yet another stark example of how an illegal war against a sovereign nation to affect regime change risks creating a lost generation of children, who are physically and psychologically scarred for life by their experiences.
Ironically, despite the fact that Saudi-led airstrikes are responsible for the vast majority of child deaths and civilian casualties, the international community, particularly the West, is not doing anything about it.
The United Nations should make sure that it lives up to its potential. International law is a powerful tool, but it will only protect Yemen’s children if the world gives it teeth. It will only protect them if the UN implements the law fully and/or if the UN Security Council ensures that veto power is not used as an excuse for inaction.
With human lives depending on the Security Council’s swift resolution of stopping this illicit war, inaction would be anything but complicity AND travesty, infringing upon Yemen’s national sovereignty.
The international civil society must continue to raise their voices in the face of tremendous opposition from warmongers that continue to oppose a peaceful solution to the Yemeni crisis. Under international law, the Saudi definition of “national security” cannot include the right to destroy a nation in violation of human rights. A nation – or a coalition of nations – willing to carry out such an act is not defending itself, but rather infringing upon the sovereignty of another nation that only wants to live in peace.
It is at times of war that international law must speak most bravely. When Yemen’s children are dying, the law must speak. When the lives of the innocent are placed in danger by an absence of regulation and accountability, the law must speak.
The UN must speak today in favor of diplomacy and peace – and their swift and effective implementation. This way the world body will no longer look away in shame.