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Yemen: Civilian casualties soar in Hodeidah since devastating offensive began in June. 

As world leaders gather in New York for the UN General Assembly, the international community has a unique window of opportunity to stand up for Yemeni children, and children in conflict everywhere, who need protection.
24 September 2018
There’s been a dramatic increase in the killing and maiming of hundreds of civilians, including children, in Yemen’s Hodeidah governorate as a direct result of the increased fighting in that part of the country over the past three months. 

According to monitoring group ACLED (Armed Conflict Location and Event Data), Hodeidah accounted for 51 per cent of all civilian casualties in Yemen between June and August this year. During that three-month period there were at least 349 civilian deaths, with a national total of 685 civilians killed. 

Between January and May this year there were an average of 44 civilian casualties every month in Hodeidah. The subsequent three months (June-August) saw the figure jump to a monthly average of 116 – an increase of 164 per cent. This is in line with a renewed offensive in June by the Saudi- & Emirati-led Coalition to retake Hodeidah and its port. 

Save the Children field teams are meeting children who have suffered severe and life-changing injuries caused by explosive weapons, from airstrikes to landmines. Treating these injuries is particularly challenging in Yemen, where the health system has all but collapsed, prosthetics are hard to come by and there are few surgeons trained to treat traumatic injuries.  

Hodeidah and its vital port are currently controlled by the Houthis but the Saudi- and Emirati-led Coalition has been trying to wrestle back control over this strategic city over the past few months. This has led to a marked increase in attacks on civilians. 

There has been more than a three-fold (342 per cent) increase in verified civilian casualties in Hodeidah over the past two years, with 129 recorded in 2016 to 571 in just the first eight months of this year (January-August). The actual civilian death toll is likely to be higher as many deaths go unreported and based on current trends many more civilians are likely to die before the end of the year. In July and August alone at least 100 children were killed across Yemen.

Tamer Kirolos, Yemen Country Director, Save the Children, said:

“We know that children are particularly vulnerable when explosive weapons like missiles and mortars hit populated areas, including towns and cities, markets, schools and hospitals. Their smaller bodies mean they’re more likely to have injuries to the head and neck, shrapnel is more likely to hit their vital organs and they have less blood to lose than adults. It’s difficult for the world to hear but it’s the stark reality for a child living in Yemen right now.”

“Thousands of children have lost their arms or legs or the ability to speak or walk as a result of explosive weapons. Health facilities in Yemen just aren’t equipped to treat these kinds of injuries. These traumatic incidents can affect a child for the rest of their life. The warring parties must come to the negotiating table to help end the suffering of Yemeni children. They can start by ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas so children aren’t at risk of death or injury as they go about their daily lives.” 

Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of Save the Children International has recently returned from a trip to Yemen, visiting children and families affected by the war there. 

Speaking from the United Nations in New York, Ms Thorning-Schmidt said:

“As world leaders meet this week for the UN General Assembly, we are urging them to use their voice to defend international humanitarian law and be clear that violations will not be tolerated. When children are targeted and killed or when hunger is used as a weapon of war, the world must speak out and do everything in its power to hold those responsible to account. Time is running out for the children I met in Yemen.”
 
“In the past few months we've seen a shocking spike in violence - from an airstrike that hit a school bus full of children to a bombing near a hospital. Battles are being fought in densely populated urban areas and children end up trapped on the frontline, risking death or life-changing injuries. Attacks on schools and hospitals are up – safe spaces that should never be targeted. This is a War on Children. The world seems to be accepting an outrageous disregard for the conventions of war, and children are paying the price. It’s shocking that in the 21st Century we are retreating on a principle that is so simple – children should be protected.
 
“The international community gathered here in New York needs to put pressure on the warring parties in Yemen to come to the negotiating table in good faith and agree to a comprehensive and immediate ceasefire. Ultimately, only a political solution can end this crisis.”
 

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