Today the EU Delegation to Yemen, together with the Embassy of Switzerland held the second technical meeting of the Yemen Group of Friends on Children in Armed Conflict in Amman. Collectively, we raise our voices to denounce the abuses suffered by the children of Yemen in the context of this prolonged conflict.
In 2020, we continued to see a worrisome increase in the numbers of child recruitment across the country. Verified cases continued to come to light despite the large underreporting, due to fear of retribution against monitors and communities. We would like to express our gratitude to the brave human rights defenders and members of the civil society who dared to bring these violations to the public. Your work is essential to render justice to the victims.
Last year, we also continued to hear cases of schools and hospitals attacked or used for military purposes. In a year marked by the spread of a global pandemic, in which access to healthcare and safe education have been so gravely compromised, this is not only a violation of international humanitarian law but also an act of disregard for human life.
The Office of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict has reported that from the onset of the conflict until September 2020, 3,513 children have been recruited by parties to the conflict. Additionally, 3,256 children have been killed, and almost 6,000 children have been maimed, primarily due to airstrikes and ground fighting. Children are often the victims of unexploded ordnance: fear from landmines has resulted in rural communities abandoning pastures, which in turn endangers their food security.
The long-lasting effects of this conflict on children is possibly the worst tragedy of this war. Untreated post-traumatic stress disorder from their experiences in war could make it difficult for children and youth to reintegrate their communities and can carry psycho-social consequences well into adulthood. Early support to children and their communities is crucial to alleviate the lasting trauma.
Children are often recruited in contexts of extreme poverty and vulnerability. For these children and their families, joining the war effort can be seen as a coping mechanism. Enabling children to attend safe schools and tending to their needs is yet another important prevention mechanism against children recruitment.
Children are the most precious and vulnerable members of society. It is ultimately them who will one day face the important task of building Yemen’s future. It is in the interest of all that they are granted the right to a safe childhood, quality education and that they are protected from the horrors of war.
Balz Abplanalp, Ambassador of Switzerland to Oman and Yemen
Hans Grundberg, Ambassador of the European Union to Yemen