Describing the current situation in Yemen as “beyond tragic” for all affected by the hostilities, Leila Zerrougui says it is “ever more important” for both the United Nations Security Council and the international community to promote political dialogue aimed at ending violations against children.
“Regrettably, the scale of killing and maiming of children has increased dramatically in 2015,” the Special Representative of the Secretary-General (SRSG) for Children and Armed Conflict said in a briefing statement.
Citing United Nations figures, she said that more than 400 children were killed, and more than 600 injured between 26 March – which saw an escalation in the conflict with the launch of air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition – and August.
“This is already more than triple the number of children killed and maimed during the whole of 2014,” SRSG Zerrougui said.
“I am appalled by the high level of child casualties, which indicates a failure by the parties to conflict to distinguish between civilian and military objects, and to take precautionary measures to avoid and minimize civilian casualties,” she later added.
SRSG Zerrougui included the remarks in a briefing delivered Friday before the Security Council working group on children and armed conflict, and the Security Council Committee established pursuant to Security Council resolution 2140 (2014).
She said the United Nations had “for a number of years” documented grave violations against children committed by parties to conflict in Yemen. She also noted that March’s escalation in the conflict followed an escalation marked by the September 2014 takeover of the capital Sana’a by Al Houthi.
“In this complex environment, where we are faced with political stalemate and an intensification of conflict, it is ever more important for the Security Council and the international community to promote political dialogue and to seek to end to the violations committed against children,” SRSG Zerrougui said.
SRSG Zerrougui briefed that 73 percent of child deaths and injuries during the second quarter of 2015 were attributed to air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition – and that 18 percent of child deaths, and 17 percent of child injuries were attributed to Al Houthi during the same period.
She also said reports showed there had been a “stark increase in attacks and military use of schools” since March, while violence had additionally taken a “heavy toll on education workers.”
SRSG Zerrougui highlighted that verified attacks on hospitals had increased six-fold from the first to the second quarter of this year, adding that the destruction – together with insecurity due to conflict – was having a “serious impact on access to healthcare.”
SRSG Zerrougui also highlighted other violations against children caught up in armed conflict, including recruitment and use, saying it was “increasingly being used more systematically by all parties.” She noted that the number of cases of child recruitment and use documented by the United Nations during the first eight months of 2015 had been triple the number for the whole of 2014 – and that 82 percent of verified recruitment cases were attributed to Al Houthi.
“Recruitment and use of children makes them increasingly vulnerable to other violations, such as arbitrary detention by parties to conflict, as well as the risk of ill-treatment and torture in detention, and summary execution,” SRSG Zerrougui said.
Four groups remain listed for recruitment and use in the annexes of the Secretary-General’s annual report on children and armed conflict, SRSG Zerrougui recalled. But while the Government of Yemen had signed an Action Plan with the United Nations to end the practice in Government armed forces, the plan had been stalled since September of last year, she added.
The Special Representative also spoke of “serious concerns about the denial of humanitarian access.”
“Incidents of denial of humanitarian access are of even greater concern in light of the scale of humanitarian need,” SRSG Zerrougui said.
She called for urgent action to facilitate access to humanitarian assistance without delay – signalling that such assistance was needed to alleviate the suffering of children and other affected civilians inside the country.