17 November 2020 - Yemen

Yemen: Child Casualties Skyrocket in Hodeidah and Taiz as World Leaders set to Meet

Hamdi*, 16 at his home in Taiz, Yemen

October was the deadliest month for Yemeni children and their families so far this year, warns Save the Children.

An escalation of the fighting in Yemen’s hotspots Hodeidah and Taiz has led to the highest number of casualties among children over the past year. The spike comes ahead of the G20 summit in neighbouring Saudi Arabia this weekend, where world leaders are promising “unprecedented actions to protect the most vulnerable.”[1] 

According to data analysed by Save the Children, at least 29 children have been killed or injured in the two cities in October[2] as fighting flared up again – an  increase of 55% compared to the monthly average in 2020. The violence is leaving children and their families caught between shells, bombs and bullets in daily attacks against civilians.  

The number of civilians killed or injured in these conflict hotspots almost doubled in October, compared with the average in the previous nine months. Across the country, 228 civilian casualties were recorded in October- the highest monthly count since September 2019. Children are among the hardest hit, as they make up a quarter of conflict-related casualties recorded this year. 

This spike in violence comes almost two years after the Stockholm agreement, which aimed to stop the fighting in Hodeidah and Taiz.[3] An up-tick in fighting in Hodeidah is particularly concerning, Save the Children said, as its port is the gateway for 70 percent of all imports to Yemen[4]. Even a temporary closure decreases the availability of food to vulnerable families, at a moment where the country is on the brink of famine, the charity warned[5].

The damage caused by shelling to Hamdi*s family home

The damage caused by shelling to Hamdi*s family home.

Save the Children’s team in Hodeidah is seeing an increase in cases of injured children. Since June, Save the Children teams have received 40 children maimed by fighting in the area. In Taiz, teams are seeing harrowing cases come in, such as Hamdi’s* family who was caught in artillery shelling. Hamdi*, 16, was badly wounded by shrapnel and now cannot walk or go to school. 

“I went into the house to go to bed when suddenly I got up to the sound of an explosion and dust filling the place. I didn’t realise I was injured in my knee so when I stood up to walk, I fell over. My pregnant aunt was in the same room as me and was also injured. My little brothers were struck by shrapnel and taken to the hospital along with the other injured people in my family,” Hamdi says. “The most difficult part in my life now is not being able to walk and seeing other children walking and playing.” 

Hamdi* also lost his aunt Noora*, as he was living with her when shelling hit their house. Noora* was pregnant and gravely injured by the shelling when she was brought to the hospital, where her baby was delivered through caesarean section whilst she was in a coma. Her baby survived, but Noora* died of her injuries not long after, leaving her newborn and her two other children orphaned.  

Xavier Joubert, Save the Children’s Country Director in Yemen, said:
“While world leaders meet at the G20 summit under the leadership of Saudi Arabia, Yemeni children will be living in fear at home, as war continues to bring death to their towns and cities. The spike in violence in Hodeidah and Taiz shows that now more than ever is the time to agree and implement a nationwide ceasefire as a step towards a sustainable peace.  

“As G20 leaders look at solutions to protect lives around the world, they must call on parties to the conflict to go back to the negotiating table, as well as for G20 members that continue to sell weapons to the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition to immediately stop and cancel arms deals. These arms sales fuel this devastating war that continues to kill and maim children across Yemen, as the number of child casualties caused by airstrikes has increased five-fold since June as compared with the previous quarter.”  

*Names changed to protect individual’s identities 


More photos and an audio interview of Hamdi* can be found here.

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[1] According to the official announcement, G20 Leaders Summit with  the theme of ‘Realizing opportunities of the 21st Century for all’ https://g20.org/en/media/Documents/G20SS_PR_G20%20Leaders'%20Summit%20Announcement_EN.pdf 

[2] Data from Civilian Impact Monitoring Project https://civilianimpactmonitoring.org/ 

[3] https://osesgy.unmissions.org/full-text-stockholm-agreement 

[4] https://reliefweb.int/report/yemen/undp-support-vital-hodeidah-ports-sets-pace-sustainable-peace-yemen 

[5] https://apnews.com/article/virus-outbreak-sanaa-famine-david-beasley-united-nations-ff4efada3f17362917ec63d6ad1342ab 

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