Local News Political Analysis

UNICEF alarmed by increasing child casualties

Yemen unrest claims lives of at least 24 children

SANA’A, 9 April 2011 – More than 24 children have so far been killed
in the on-going civil unrest in Yemen, while several hundred have
sustained injuries.

“This is extremely alarming”, said Geert Cappelaere, representative of
UNICEF Yemen. “I am gravely concerned about this escalation of
violence, especially with regards to the number of child casualties,
which keeps increasing from week to week.”

According to information collected by UNICEF partner, local NGO Seyaj,
the total number of child casualties of the civil unrest over the
course of the period between 18 February and 8 April 2011 is 662, of
which 24 dead. If the child victims of the explosion at the ammunition
factory in Abyan are included, the number jumps to 693 casualties in
total, of which 37 dead. This information is systematically collected
by Seyaj monitors in major cities and centres of unrest including
Sana’a, Hodaida, Taiz, Abyan, Aden, Ibb, Sa’ada, Dhale, Dhamar,
Al-Bayda’, Amran, Hadhramout and Al-Jawf.

The Seyaj report reveals the total number of children injured by live
ammunition to be 31. Injuries due to physical violence were sustained
by 47 children, while 552 suffered injuries caused by tear gas.
Moreover, eight children have been arrested or unlawfully imprisoned.

“The government has an obligation to strictly abide by the Convention
on the Rights of the Child, as well as International Human Rights and
Humanitarian Law, whether the country is in a declared State of
Emergency or not,” asserted Cappelaere, adding that protecting minors
from violence and abuse is a universal responsibility all parties to
the conflict are bound by.

While children must be guaranteed the right of association and freedom
of expression, in the current climate of spiralling tension, children
in Yemen have been exposed to exploitation, as well as
life-threatening dangers and far too often pay a heavy price with
their physical and mental wellbeing.

“UNICEF urges all involved, including government, opposition groups,
security forces, political actors, social and religious leaders, as
well as parents and other concerned citizens, to make sure children
are kept out of the conflict”, said Cappelaere. “The children are
Yemen’s future, and their lives are more important than any political
dispute.”

The worsening security situation in the country has also curtailed
school life for many children. Schools have been shut and many
families have kept their children at home for safety, as protests
around the country turn increasingly violent. Disruption of education
is a serious development in a country that already has grave
challenges educating all its boys and girls. Today, according to
UNICEF data, only 70 percent of boys and 60 percent of girls receive
primary education.

“This violence and instability is adding a dangerous burden to Yemeni
children, already tormented by a number of emergencies and chronic
underdevelopment”, said Cappelaere.