Child Poverty in Yemen
While the civil war in Yemen is still ongoing, it could finally be coming to an end, as Saudi Arabia and Iran agreed to a peace deal in March 2023. Despite the truce, the effects on civilians, particularly children, might take a long time to heal. The all-time high state of child poverty in Yemen has left many negative impacts.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), more than 23 million people, including around 13 million children, are in need of humanitarian assistance. A report by the United Nations’ World Food Programme (WFP), estimated that there are currently 2.2 million acutely malnourished Yemeni children under 5 years old that require medical attention.
As a result of tactics used during the war, children in Yemen are missing out on much-needed supplies. Road blockades and the seizure of important ports, such as the Port of Aden, have contributed to low supply levels; also, more than 9.2 million children cannot access clean water and sanitizing services.
In a recent press release, Executive Director at UNICEF Catherine Russell said: “Thousands of children have lost their lives, and hundreds of thousands more remain at risk of death from preventable disease or starvation.”
Diseases and Vaccination
Due to the lack of clean water, Yemenis rely on dirty water for their daily needs. As a result, affected citizens face the threat of contracting water-borne diseases like cholera.
A 2021 report by the World Health Organisation (WHO), showed that between 2016 and 2021, there were more than 2.5 million cases of cholera in Yemen alongside an estimated 4,000 deaths. The spread of disease is also impacted by child poverty in Yemen.
Some of the deaths may be a result of Yemenis missing vaccinations. As of December 2022, around 28% of children under the age of one were missing their routine vaccinations, leaving them more susceptible to preventable diseases such as measles, cholera and diphtheria. Regarding the situation, Director Russell commented, “If the children of Yemen are to have any chance of a decent future, then the parties to the conflict, the international community and all those with influence must ensure they protect and support them.”
The impact of the war in Yemen extends beyond health care and food insecurity, as it has also affected the country’s education system. According to UNICEF, the number of children deprived of basic education in Yemen may soon reach 6 million, affecting their prospects for employment and perpetuating levels of child poverty in Yemen.
As per the latest reports, the conflict has caused the destruction of 2,900 schools, with two-thirds of teachers in the country have received irregular pay. The COVID-19 pandemic has further disrupted education, with almost 5.8 million children experiencing school closures. According to UNICEF, 2 million Yemeni children are growing up without any education.
The charity organization called for urgent action to address this crisis, emphasizing that without support for education, Yemen’s future generations will struggle to recover and rebuild from the effects of the war.
The Civil War
The Yemen conflict involves two main warring parties: the Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, and the internationally recognized government of Yemen, backed by Saudi Arabia.
Both sides have been able to sustain the conflict due to consistent financial backing from their respective allies. However, a new peace deal brokered by China in March 2023 offers hope for an end to the conflict.
According to a 2023 report by UNICEF, more than 11,000 children died between the war’s start in 2014 and the end of 2021, averaging four deaths per day. The United Nations brokered a truce in Yemen last year, providing a period of peace for both parties. Unfortunately, the truce ended in October 2022 when attempts to reach a deal fell short. Within a month, 164 people, including 74 children at least, died.
Despite the daily challenges Yemenis face, organizations such as UNICEF and WFP, alongside others have been working through government funding and donations to restore hope in the nation.
In 2022, UNICEF helped more than 260,000 children who were facing acute malnutrition and starvation, whilst also installing water distribution points across the country, providing safe drinking water for at least 4.7 million people.
The organization has vaccinated approximately 1.6 million children against measles and polio to curb the spread of these diseases. The WFP’s goal is to provide basic food assistance to more than 13 million individuals, offering flour, oil, salt, cash, or vouchers to purchase essential supplies. This effort aims to reduce child poverty in Yemen.
The fight against Yemen’s humanitarian crisis continues, and foreign aid plays a crucial role. In December 2022, WFP reported that it had assisted 8.6 million people. Catherine Russell emphasized, “Ultimately, sustained peace is the only way for families to rebuild their shattered lives and plan for the future.”
– Samuel Kalantzis