Yemen, a relatively small country located south of Saudi Arabia and east of the Red Sea, currently has one of the worst humanitarian crises on the planet. Similar to situations is most conflicts, Yemeni children have suffered immensely since the war began in 2014. In particular, Yemen has seen the recruitment of child soldiers as a common practice. Since this is a very serious issue, in the text below top 10 facts about Yemen child soldiers are presented.
Top 10 Facts About Yemen Child Soldiers
- The year 2014 witnessed the beginning of the crisis in Yemen when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels took over most of the country’s cities, including the capital Sanaa. In response, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition in support of the government that was led by Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi.
- Saudi Arabia and its coalition partners have mainly waged a campaign of air strikes and an ongoing land, air and sea blockade. According to the World Health Organisation, as of early 2018, over 8,600 people have died and around 50,000 have been injured. In addition to this fact, Yemen is experiencing one of the worst modern world’s cholera outbreak.
- Although both Houthi forces and pro-government forces claim child soldiers are frowned upon on, the number of child soldiers has increased in Yemen over the years. The U.N. reports that an estimated 517 children were recruited in Yemen during 2016. In 2017, however, this number expanded to 842. This includes children as young as 11 years old. In total, an official tally approximates that around 2,369 children have been used in combat since 2015.
- Of these confirmed cases, Houthi rebels share the most responsibility for the recruitment of Yemeni children. Out of the 842 recruited child soldiers in 2017, 534 fought under the Houthi rebels. Of course, Houthi rebels are not the only ones who participate in using child soldiers for their cause, since another, pro-government side, recruits child soldiers as well.
- Poverty has become a significant factor for child recruitment in Yemen. The USAID reports that 80 percent of Yemenis need humanitarian assistance. Consequently, the recruitment of children becomes an economic exchange. These young boys are voluntarily and involuntarily recruited for the purpose of bringing the money home. With families living in poverty and in war-torn areas, fighting for the rebels or pro-government forces becomes one of the few ways to make a living at such a young age. In fact, Amnesty International stated that Houthi forces would offer to pay $80 to $120 in monthly pensions to the family of a killed child soldier.
- The degradation of Yemen’s educational system has also resulted in a major recruitment boom for local forces. As of March 2018, the U.N. estimated that around 2 million school-aged children were out of school and 2,500 schools were left in rubbles. The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund has concluded that the risks or children recruitment for war purposes rapidly increase when there is no educational or social security net for them to grow up in. Armed groups are able to distort the perceptions of parents and children into thinking that recruitment is the only path left for the future, in order to gain cheap soldiers.
- While Yemen child soldiers are increasingly being recruited in the current crisis, international groups are using foreign aid to stop and eventually reverse this trend. For instance, UNICEF has recently launched a campaign that emphasizes education and advocacy. It is their plan to rebuild Yemen’s educational system and make sure that children at-risk always have schooling as the best option for their future. Moreover, the U.N. has called on all parties of the conflict to return these children to schools and better protect them and their futures.
- The U.S. Agency for International Development has initiated numerous projects for keeping children educated and protected. As of 2017, USAID has funded the day-to-day expenses and repairs for over 200 schools, resulting in 70,000 children staying in school and receiving a basic education. Working alongside the Yemen Ministry of Education, 15,000 high-risk children were able to continue their education at home when the security environment proved too dangerous for schools. S.A.I.D. and local governments are continuously developing security and emergency plans for over 100 schools in order to better protect school children across the country.
- The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) was launched in Yemen’s Marib province with the hope of helping former child soldiers recover from the emotional and phycological scars of combat. As of 2017, 215 children were rehabilitated in addition to 2,000 that are currently undergoing treatment.
- The U.N.’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen stated he was “deeply disturbed” by the conflict and the “complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, continue to show in this absurd war.”
With the deadly conflict still raging in Yemen with no end in sight, it may be easy to lose hope. However, humanitarians at home and abroad are continuing to fight, especially for the children that are being manipulated into seeing their future as soldiers as the only way out. The hope is still alive that the joint effort of local authorities and international organizations will secure that these children go to school, not armories.
– Tanner Helem