Every 35 seconds, a child in Yemen contracts cholera or acute watery diarrhea thanks to a two year conflict that has ripped the country apart and produced the world’s largest humanitarian crisis today.
War broke out in March of 2015 after a long-running political crisis in the country led to the overthrow of the president. Now with Saudi Arabia-backed militants fighting Iran-backed rebels, the conflict has in effect become a proxy war between two regional powers.
The UN has described the war as”‘brutal,” with deliberate policies and tactics causing devastating consequences. More than 3 million people people have been forced from their homes and 10,000 have been people killed, primarily from airstrikes from Saudi Arabia. This humanitarian disaster has been dramatically worsened by a blockade imposed by the Saudi-led coalition, which has left the Yemeni population with limited access to food, fuel, medical supplies, and humanitarian aid. In addition to its imposition of a blockade, the Saudi Arabia-led coalition was found by the UN to be responsible for 60% of child casualties in Yemen.
In August Global Citizen joined forces with Save the Children to see Saudi Arabia and its allies called to account for killing and maiming children in Yemen — previously the only party to the conflict not to be named. Within weeks Global Citizens took over 18,000 actions, tweeting and signing the petition calling on the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to list Saudi Arabia in the UN’s Annual Children and Armed Conflict Report.
This is a list of parties within the conflict who the UN has verified as being responsible for committing grave violations against children. Kevin Watkins, CEO of Save the Children outlined the power of the stigma associated with this list: “Being added to this shameful list should act as a wake-up call to every party in Yemen’s conflict – and countries that are supporting or arming them.” Yet this was not a simple ask: in 2016, Saudi Arabia was listed and then rapidly removed from the report, following diplomatic pressure on the UN.
On Aug. 14, our partners at Save the Children sent a list of 37,000 signatures to the office of the Special Representative to the Secretary-General on Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, when the report was in the critical stages of finalization.
Jack Madden, Senior Campaigns Advisor for Save the Children, commented on the importance of Global Citizen signatures on this petition, “It was incredibly helpful to have Global Citizen partner with us on this campaign. The breadth of engagement and the extra supporters certainly helped make clear to the General Secretary the importance of the issue, and that this matters to people across the world, and demonstrated the range of people concerned by the situation in Yemen.”
Our collective voice was most certainly heard. The report was released earlier this month and it explicitly outlines that the Saudi-led coalition's bombing of rebels in Yemen led to "the killing and maiming of children with 683 child casualties.”
In addition to Saudi Arabia, it lists the Houthi-rebel group, which is backed by Iran, Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Yemeni government forces, and pro-government militia, saying that the Houthis and related rebel forces were responsible for over 400 children dead and injured during 2016.
This is urgently needed progress for a country where 2 million children are currently out of school, and more than 450,000 children below 5-years-old are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Yet the campaign is far from over.
Help us to continue to protect the people of Yemen from violence. Start with watching this video from Save the Children to call on the UK government to suspend arms sales to Saudi Arabia.