27 March 2019 - Yemen

Yemen hospital bombing: Number of children killed rises to five

The number of children killed in an airstrike which hit a Save the Children supported hospital in Kitaf, Yemen, yesterday has risen to five.

A boy of just 8 years old was the youngest person killed. Another boy aged 10, two boys aged twelve and one boy aged 14 also lost their lives. The total death toll has now reached eight.

The children, along with three adults, died when a missile struck a petrol station near the entrance to Kitaf rural hospital, about 60km from the city of Saada in the northwest of Yemen, at 9.30am yesterday.

Surviving patients and staff fled into the surrounding areas following the attack, and the hospital has been forced to close.

Early assessments show that medicines and medical equipment have been damaged and destroyed in the attack. The pharmacy has reportedly been destroyed, with all of its medicines damaged. The hospital generator and an ambulance were also damaged. It may take weeks or months for the facility to return to normal operations.

Save the Children’s team has reported that security is continuing to deteriorate, with planes regularly flying overhead and air strikes continuing in the surrounding areas.

One health worker who was injured was in the emergency room treating two young children suffering from chest pains when the bombing happened. He said:

“All people were screaming and running out of the hospital. The structure of the hospital was totally damaged inside. Our colleague lost two children. They were burned.

“I got injured in my head and I was bleeding. I ran away from the hospital with my colleague to a safe place but we found nothing that could help me stop the bleeding.  It was the most difficult moments of my life.”

One of those killed was a hospital security guard on duty. During his burial today alarm was raised of another possible airstrike, forcing the mourners to flee and take cover.

Some families in Kitaf are being forced to abandon their homes and leave for safer areas.

The hospital is the main health facility in the area, with around 5,000 people relying on it for vital health care.

With Save the Children’s support the hospital treats young children for severe, life threatening malnutrition in a conflict where the health system is already on its knees and up to 85,000 children may already have died from extreme hunger and disease.

The aid agency also helps the hospital to provide maternal and child health services and primary healthcare. The hospital also has a diarrhoea treatment centre in a county where a 1,000 children are contracting cholera each day.

Save the Children supports the hospital to provide primary health care, maternal and child health and treatment for child malnutrition.

This hospital was de-conflicted. This means that parties in the conflict were made aware that the building was a hospital. Its coordinates were placed on a no-strike list and all parties were obliged to avoid it by a radius of 100m.

The air strike hit just 50m from the front of the hospital. International humanitarian law states that parties must keep hospitals safe.

Jason Lee, Save the Children Deputy Country Director in Yemen, said:

“Even in communities worn down by four years of relentless war, the outrageous bombing right in front of this hospital has caused huge fear and shock. As air strikes in the area continue, one of our field team said he’s never been this scared in his life.

“Not only has this attack shattered the lives of those killed and injured, but it threatens to have a catastrophic impact on healthcare for 5,000 people in the area. Pregnant women may be forced to give birth without the care that could save them and their babies’ lives. Starving children may go without lifesaving treatment for severe malnutrition.

“There simply can be no excuse for this horrific act. Five children and a health worker have lost their lives in a place dedicated to saving them. There must be an immediate, credible investigation into how this happened, and those responsible for any violations must be held to account”.

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