A new report of the UN Secretary-General on Children and Armed conflict in Yemen showed more than 3,500 children were victims of one or more grave violations in the war-torn country between January 2019 and December 2020.
The report said 2,600 children were killed or maimed during the same period, mostly through the indiscriminate use of mortar and artillery shelling including in residential areas, ground fighting, anti-personal landmines, and other explosive remnants of war.
Issuing the findings on Monday, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, Virginia Gamba, said that “the atrocities and immense suffering” would likely leave a generation of Yemeni children “scarred for life”.
“It is urgent for all parties to actively work towards a political solution of the conflict if they hope to save children from further harm”, she said. “Boys and girls are the future of Yemen. Parties to conflict must protect them from use and abuse and start treating children as the precious asset they are.”
The verification of information for all grave violations recorded on the ground was difficult, the report notes, and the intensity of the conflict and hostilities also hindered the ability to document and verify violations. The Covid-19 pandemic and related restrictions further exacerbated these existing access challenges.
The deprivation of liberty of some 111 children, held for alleged association with opposing parties to the conflict, is also a major concern.
The Special Representative said that children should be considered primarily as victims, “and depriving them of their liberty should only be used as a last resort and for the shortest period, in accordance with international juvenile justice standards”, the report added.
Ms. Gamba called on the international community to continue to support the reintegration of released children, including through the Global Coalition for Reintegration of Child Soldiers.
Attacks on education continued, with 37 recorded attacks on schools, and the military use of 80 schools, further impairing the right of boys and girls to an education. More than two million children are currently out of the classroom.
The report outlined the UN’s dialogue with parties to conflict, and the progress made by the Government of Yemen in the implementation of its action plan to end and prevent child recruitment and use of children, signed in 2014 and of the Roadmap adopted in 2018, which “has led to a significant decrease for this violation.”
The Special Representative echoed the UN Secretary-General’s call for a nationwide ceasefire by all parties to the conflict, and to continue their engagement with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen towards the resumption of an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated political settlement.
“Considering the rights and needs of children into the discussions will also be critical for sustainable peace and for the future of the country,” said Ms. Gamba, adding that the Practical Guidance for Mediators to Protect Children in Situations of Armed Conflict issued by her office, is an important and useful tool in the context of Yemen.
“The terrible toll that the war in Yemen takes on children must end. Peace is the only solution and child survivors need our support to heal and rebuild their lives,” she stressed. (Source: UN News)