by Noor Al-Kasadi
April 29, 2015. The situation in Yemen is complex. My country has endured many long years of chronic poverty, underdevelopment, unemployment and weak basic services. Yemen has also high rates of maternal, infant and under-five mortality as well as high rates of malnutrition. Complicating matters, Yemen serves as a transit point for migrants from the Horn of Africa seeking entry into Saudi Arabia. The more than one million refugees seeking “safe” harbor in Yemen place an even greater burden on my already struggling country.
For much of the past 50 years, Yemen has been at war. There was the 1962 war between the Royalists and the Republicans. Then there was the 1994 war between the North and South. This was followed by six rounds of war in Sa’ada Governorate against Al-Houthi, between 2004 and 2009. As a result of the Arab Spring, Yemen experienced years of additional unrest followed by a period of transition to peace. But this transition has been brutally halted by the current war, which erupted at the end of March 2015. The bloodshed and violence committed in this short time is already among the worst my country has ever seen.
Yemen is made up of tribal communities with weapons widely dispersed among the population–as part of the culture, representing ideas of power and prestige. This war will, of course, exacerbate the difficulties of ensuring children’s physical safety. But it will also cause further damage to children’s health, nutrition, and education, all of which are essential to the wellbeing of every child.
As a citizen of Yemen, I appeal to all actors to take all possible steps to ensure full protection for children and their families.
The most important step is to stop harming civilians and lift restrictions around commercial ships carrying fuel and food. We need all parties to the conflict to understand that this war is negatively affecting the trapped population, especially children, women, the elderly, and people with disabilities. In addition, schools, hospitals and other structures that are already vulnerable should not be attacked; and as we all know, continuous fighting in different areas prevents people from getting their basic needs, such as food, water, medicine, and other necessities they are entitled to.
I appeal to the Yemeni Government to make every effort to ensure the peace, safety and security of our population, especially the children. Children in Yemen are at heightened risk of being killed and injured. Children are getting lost or separated from their parents when families frantically and desperately attempt to flee attacked areas. Also, many children are psychologically affected by the conflict. We need our government to do everything it can to help protect the rights and needs of all affected civilians, especially children.
And then, as a citizen of the world, I urgently appeal to donors to help and support us. Your contribution will enable humanitarian organizations to meet the urgent needs of the affected population. My country now needs your contributions to save lives and to build a better future for children in Yemen.
Last but not the least, we all need to work at protecting children and their families, not only in Yemen but all over the world.
Noor Al-Kasadi is a UNICEF senior child protection officer based in Yemen and a Spring 2015 G. Barrie Landry fellow at the FXB Center for Health & Human Rights.