BY JESSE CHASE-LUBITZ, BETHANY ALLEN-EBRAHIMIAN
More than 90 civilians, including 25 children, died in a March 2016 Saudi airstrike on a market in Yemen. Months later, ten more children perished in another strike on a school in Saada. The next day, five children were killed when a bomb smashed into a hospital in Hajjah.
These are just three of the 23 “grave violations” that have been committed against children in the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen, according to a new report by Save the Children and Watchlist. Released on Thursday, the report puts the total number of children killed or wounded by all sides in the conflict at around 4,000.
The grinding civil war in Yemen already had claimed civilian victims by the time the Saudis intervened with several other regional governments in March 2015 to back Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels.
The Saudi-led intervention has added a new dimension to the conflict, turning it into a proxy war between regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran. Since the intervention kicked off in March 2015, 7,600 people have been killed and 42,000 injured in the bombings. The U.S. has supplied Saudi Arabia with many of the lethal munitions dropped by Saudi and Emirati jets, in 2015 approving over $20 billion in military sales, Human Rights Watch reported.
In addition to the massive casualties, the war has led to an outbreak of cholera. More than 1,614 people have died, with about 96,000 cases since 2014. Children are especially susceptible to the disease. Last year, the UN Office of the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict initially included the Saudi-led coalition on its annual child rights blacklist, which lists countries that have committed crimes or violations against children, citing the deaths of 510 children. But U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon removed the coalition from the list after Saudi Arabia complained — a move which earned him fierce criticism from human rights groups.
This is not the first time human rights advocates have pushed for the coalition’s inclusion on the blacklist, which comes in response to documented cases of air strikes on funerals and markets.
Humanitarian aid such as food and medical supplies are funnelled mostly through a single port, Hodeida, which the Saudi coalition has threatened to take by force. The entire conflict has forced millions from their homes on a vast scale, with an estimated 3.27 million people displaced by 2016, according to a report published by Amnesty International. This year’s UN child rights blacklist is expected to be released in August. The report by Save the Children and Watchlist urges the United Nations to include the Saudi-led coalition on the list, as well as the Islamic State, al-Shabaab, and Boko Haram.
Apart from Riyadh, the Saudi-led coalition is now comprised of Bahrain, Kuwait, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Sudan. Qatar was expelled last month amid a feud with other Gulf powers.