UN slammed for absolving Saudi coalition of Yemen child deaths

UN slammed for absolving Saudi coalition of Yemen child deaths
3 min read
28 June, 2018
A UN report received harsh criticism from Save the Children for seeming to absolve the Saudi-led military coalition of responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Yemeni children.
The Saudi-led coalition have devastated civilian sites, including schools and hospitals [Getty]
A new report by the United Nations on children in armed conflicts received harsh criticism from Save the Children for absolving the Saudi-led coalition of direct responsibility for the deaths of hundreds of Yemeni children killed during bombings of schools and hospitals.

The report, released on Wednesday, says more than 10,000 children were killed or maimed amid armed conflicts worldwide last year, while others were raped, forced to serve as armed soldiers or caught in attacks on schools and hospitals.

A total of more than 21,000 violations of children's right were reported in 2017 — a sharp increase from the previous year, according to the annual "Children and Armed Conflict" report.

Read more: Yemen: The fate of Hodeida

The UN did put the blame on the US-backed Arab coalition fighting in Yemen for at least half of the more than 1,300 child deaths or injuries recorded in the impoverished nation. The children were confirmed as victims of aerial and ground attacks by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on Houthi rebels opposed to Yemen's internationally recognised government.

Among the casualties tallied in the report were child soldiers as young as 11 fighting in Yemen's civil war and in other countries, the UN said.

"The point is, these kids should not be treated like children of a lesser God; they deserve the same rights as every kid to live their lives at least meaningfully and to be given a chance at recovery," said Virginia Gamba, the UN special representative for children and armed conflict.

Despite this, Save the Children issued a statement saying the Un had underestimated the number of children killed by the Arab coalition. It also objected to the face that the Coalition was identified in the report as having put in place measures aimed at improving the protection of children, saying it should be listed solely as a group who have committed grave violations against children in conflict.

Kevin Watkins, the charity's Chief Executive, said: “We find it remarkable that despite continued attacks against civilian targets including schools and hospitals, the Saudi- and Emirati-led Coalition is being partly absolved of its responsibilities as a party committing grave violations of children’s rights in Yemen.

“While the Saudi- and Emirati-led Coalition is still listed for killing and maiming children in Yemen, clearing it of attacks on schools and hospitals when the evidence shows otherwise is deplorable.”

Virginia Gamba said the report left UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres feeling "outraged."

The 21,000 violations of children's rights included 10,000 who were slain or maimed, especially in Iraq, Myanmar, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Syria and Yemen, the report said.

The total was a dramatic increase from 15,500 such cases counted in 2016. "The secretary-general is outraged at this number, a significant increase compared to previous years," said his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric.

"The report details the unspeakable violence children have been faced with, and shows how in too many conflict situations, parties to conflict have an utter disregard for any measures that could contribute to shielding the most vulnerable from the impact of war," Gamba said.

"When your own house or your school can be attacked without qualms, when traditional safe havens become targets, how can boys and girls escape the brutality of war? It's despicable."

Agencies contributed to this report.