'Manmade catastrophe': Yemen conflict has killed 1,100 children, says UN

  06 September 2017    Read: 1273
'Manmade catastrophe': Yemen conflict has killed 1,100 children, says UN

More than 1,100 children have been killed in Yemen, most in airstrikes by the Saudi military coalition, while some as young as 10 have been recruited to fight, according to the latest UN figures on the three-year conflict.

Based on interviews with survivors, witnesses and family members as well as site visits, a report by the UN human rights office reveals an escalation in hostilities in the country, with more airstrikes in the first half of this year than in all of 2016. Human rights violations and abuses continue unabated, with at least 5,144 civilians killed and 8,749 injured in what the UN describes as an “entirely manmade catastrophe”.

The new figures were published after the head of the World Food Programme, David Beasley, called on Saudi Arabia to fund 100% of the humanitarian needs in the war-torn country.

At least 3,200 civilians were reportedly killed by coalition forces, according to the UN, although the numbers are likely to be higher. The Saudi coalition receives backing and weapons from the UK and the US.

Children account for 1,184 of those killed and 1,592 injured, mostly from coalition airstrikes, the report said. More than 1,700 children, some as young as 10, have been recruited for use in hostilities, 67% of them by the popular committee forces affiliated with the Houthis and their allies, army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. The UN said its observers have “frequently” seen children who were armed and uniformed manning checkpoints.

Information gathered by the UN human rights office shows apparent indiscriminate attacks on civilian populations by both sides to the conflict, with civilians directly targeted by airstrikes and shelling.

The war began when the Saudi-led coalition launched a campaign in support of the president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, after Iranian-backed Houthi rebels seized parts of the country including the capital, Sana’a.

Last week, human rights groups urged the UN to establish an independent inquiry into abuses during the Yemen conflict. The past year has seen widespread airstrikes against markets, hospitals, schools and residential areas as well as on funerals and small civilian boats. The deteriorating situation in Yemen is now the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with close to 18.8 million people in need of humanitarian aid; 7 million on the brink of famine; and an estimated 540,000 suffering from cholera.

“In many cases, information obtained … suggested that civilians may have been directly targeted, or that operations were conducted heedless of their impact on civilians without regard to the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. In some cases, information suggested that no actions were taken to mitigate the impact of operations on civilians,” the UN report states. It also said those opposing the parties to the conflict have been harassed, detained and, on occasion, tortured and killed, raising further concerns over human rights abuses.

The UN high commissioner for human rights, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, said it was crucial for an independent inquiry to be established on the conflict.

Hussein said: “I have repeatedly called on the international community to take action – to set up an independent, international investigation into the allegations of very serious violations of human rights and international humanitarian law in Yemen.” He said this would help put the parties to the conflict on notice that “the international community is watching and determined to hold to account perpetrators of violations and abuses”.

He also voiced serious concerns regarding the rise of new armed groups affiliated with al-Qaida that are exploiting the security vacuum in Yemen.

“I appeal to all the parties to the conflict, those supporting them and those with influence over them to have mercy on the people of Yemen, and to take immediate measures to ensure humanitarian relief for civilians and justice for the victims of violations,” he added.

Attacks on civilians have extended recently into the waters off the western coast of Yemen, where fishing vessels and boats carrying migrants have come under fire.

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