Protecting Children in Conflict

Helping Yemen's children to reach their potential

Conflict turns a child’s world upside down. It brings chaos, disorder and violence – causing children to witness things that no one should ever see.

Your kind and generous support enables us to stand side by side with children living in conflict, to make sure they do not become a lost generation.

When children’s lives are torn apart by conflict, we work to protect them from danger. We help them to overcome the emotional traumas they have experienced. And we support them to stay in school, so they can reach their full potential.

Yemen

From March 2015, conflict has spread throughout Yemen, triggering the biggest humanitarian crisis in the world.

Conflict has aggravated already severe levels of poverty, poor governance and instability.

Today, 22.2 million people are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, including 11.3 million children.

Thanks to support like yours, we're responding throughout the country.

"Before the war our life was beautiful and happy. We had everything.

I wish that the war would stop because it is killing children."

Khaled, age 12

In August of 2019, Khaled was riding on a school bus in Saada. He'd asked his father permission to go on this field trip for the summer vacation.

The bus he was on was bombed, killing 50 people including 40 children.

In Khaled's own words:

"We got into the bus, we were extremely happy, we never expected this trip [to happen]."

"The driver went out to buy us water, as he was returning, the warplane hit us. I was then unconscious. I pulled up my eyelids that is when I saw carnage, I didn’t know where I was."

"I was not able to hear, and I could not see. Even after 3 months I was still not able to see. Now my eyesight is poor. I cannot see clearly."

One year later, Khaled is still suffering from injuries sustained in the attack. He has poor eyesight and pieces of shrapnel remain in his head that give him headaches. Khaled still faces difficulties remembering things that happened in the past, and requires more surgery to remove broken glass from his head.

The attack also injured Khaled's leg, causing him to need a wheelchair. One year on, with inspiring strength and determination he is learning to get around again without a wheelchair, but still requires crutches.

Your generous support enabled us to help Khaled in the immediate aftermath by paying for medical bills, transportation fees, food baskets and toys. We're continuing to support by paying for the ongoing hospital transportation costs and dressings for his head injury.

This incident has had a deep and long lasting impact on Khaled's life. His injuries prevent him from playing football, being with his friends and going to school like he used to.

"Now, every time I hear the warplane I run away. I don’t dare to stay. I close my ears and lay to sleep that way. I am scared, in case it hits again. If it hits, then it will kill children."

79% of school children living in Saana, Yemen, show signs of serious psychological trauma as a result of the conflict.

Many children suffer from what’s known as ‘toxic stress’ – a constant fight-or-flight reflex caused by exposure to extreme adversity without adequate support.

If left untreated, toxic stress can have a lifelong impact on children’s mental and physical health.

"Before I fainted, I was worried about my sister and when I woke up, I was still worried about her. I was calling for her...

When I got to my neighbourhood and saw my little sister in the streets, I was very relieved. "

Amina, age 14

Sadly, we know conflict can also leave children with emotional scars.

Amina and her family live in Sana'a, after violent escalation forced them to flee their hometown of Amran.

In Sana'a, they registered for school, which Amina and her sister attended regularly, to learn and play with their friends.

"I got to school and we were doing the morning warm-up normally just like every day. We ate breakfast and I played with the girls, then we went back to class."

"Then suddenly we heard the explosion. We immediately left the class."

"We were running, then I tripped and fell down the stairs and fainted. I became unconscious. After I fell down, the girls walked over me. There was shrapnel everywhere. I wasn’t aware of anything around me."

"Shrapnel hit my legs and my entire back is all bruises because the girls walked and stepped over me. My face was also hurt."

Amina was rushed to hospital where she was able to make a physical recovery. Throughout this time her thoughts were with her sister who was in another part of the school when the blast happened.

Luckily, both sisters survived the attack. Sadly many of their classmates died, including Amina's best friend.

Thanks to your kind support Save the Children was able to help Amina and her little sister to start to rebuild their lives. We paid for Amina's hospital bills and crucially, we are providing Amina and her sister psychological support to help them cope with the fear this incident has instilled in them.

Amina is afraid to go back to school, and when their father describes his youngest daughter, he says that she "is always scared, it is like she lost her mind. She cannot speak well, if she hears a motorcycle or sees any stranger walking, even if it is a doctor, she gets scared and paranoid that they want to hurt her.”

We're working to give Amina and her sister the tools to cope with their experiences. With the right support, we aim to help them return to school and reach their potential.

Attacks like this unfairly put children in the centre of a conflict that isn't theirs.

These attacks on children are a grave violation against their rights.

Our Campaigns team work to influence governments to protect children affected by conflict.

In March 2019 a group of 60 activists, made up largely of school children, mobilised themselves to fight for change. We raised these children's voices to speak out on an issue they cared deeply about.

On Tuesday 19th March, the group handed in Save the Children's peace petition of more than 58,000 signatures to the Foreign Office, asking the UK government to enforce the importance of a ceasefire at the UN Security Council.

Yemen's conflict is also having a brutal effect on the country's economy, which in turn brings devastating impacts for children.

Many parents have lost their jobs, or not received a regular salary for years. In the long term, this means parents are simply unable to feed their families, despite their greatest efforts to find work.

"My name is Salah* and I am 42 years old. I used to work on my neighbours’ farms but they cannot afford to pay me anymore so I now survive on doing random jobs whenever I get the opportunity.

I earn 1500 – 2000 Yemeni riyal ($2-3) which is not enough to provide one single meal for my children.

In May 2019 my son Adel fell very ill, he lost so much weight and had severe diarrhoea, I was scared and did not know what to do. I rushed him to the health centre in the middle of the night, when we reached the health centre I was told that my child was severely malnourished, looking at my child’s condition I didn’t know if he would recover or not, I blamed myself for not providing enough for my family.

The doctors said they can treat him and they gave him medicines and we also started receiving Plumpy Nut. We made sure we did not miss a single week for his check-ups.

It has been four months now since our first visit to the health facility and I am very happy to see my son smiling and regaining his weight, I wish this conflict would end so that we can fully provide for our families. It is a father’s wish to see all his children healthy, walking and running around the house.

I cannot thank Save the Children enough for the support they gave to my son.”

Yemen is not the only country whose children are facing these challenges.

Nearly one fifth of all children worldwide live in a conflict zone, a figure greater than the population of the US and UK combined.

Our organisation was built on the foundations of helping children affected by conflict. Today, we continue to be fiercely committed to helping every child around the globe whose lives has been devastated by conflict.

Our response is centred around three core principles:

  • Protecting children from violence and grave violations
  • Providing mental health support to children affected by conflict
  • Ensuring schools are safe and off-limits in war

We must keep standing up for children and giving them the support their need to cope with their circumstances.

Thank you so much for your support in helping us do this. Your generosity is giving children the tools they need to change their futures.

Thank you for helping Yemen's children to reach their potential

* Children's names changed to protect their identity