SANAʽA/RIYADH – Two million children and teenagers are out of school in war-torn Yemen, the United Nations children’s fund announced, nearly five years after Saudi Arabia and its allies had launched a devastating bombing campaign in the impoverished Middle Eastern country. The education of a further 3.7 million children is at risk as teachers’ salaries have not been paid in more than two years, UNICEF said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Violence, displacement and attacks on schools are preventing many children from attending school,” Sara Beysolow Nyanti, the UNICEF representative in Yemen, stated.
One in five schools in the country can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict that has devastated Yemen’s already-fragile education system, the UN agency warned.
“Children out of school face increased risks of all forms of exploitation including being forced to join the fighting, child labor and early marriage,” Nyanti added, noting, “They lose the opportunity to develop and grow in a caring and stimulating environment, ultimately becoming trapped in a life of poverty and hardship.”
Riyadh and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of former Yemeni President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Ansarullah movement.
Despite Riyadh’s claims that it is bombing the positions of the Ansarullah fighters, Saudi bombers are flattening residential areas and civilian infrastructure. Weddings, funerals, schools and hospitals, as well as water and electricity plants, have been targeted, killing and wounding hundreds of thousands.
Save the Children, a charity, had reported that more than 84,700 children under the age of five may have starved to death in Yemen since the Saudi regime and a coalition of its allies launched the brutal war on the already-impoverished nation. According to UNICEF, 1.8 million children under the age of five are suffering from severe malnutrition.
France, the United States, the United Kingdom and some other Western countries have faced criticisms over arms sales to the Saudi Arabia and the UAE, whose aggression against Yemen has affected 28 million people and caused what the United Nations calls “one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world”. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.
A UN panel has compiled a detailed report of civilian casualties caused by the Saudi military and its allies during their war against Yemen, saying the Riyadh-led coalition has used precision-guided munitions in its raids on civilian targets. The total number of reported fatalities in Yemen has passed the 91,000 mark over the past four and a half years, the US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED) announced in late August.