YEMEN: The moment a 13-year-old boy was hit by an airstrike

Save the Children calls for independent, international investigation into alleged war crimes by all parties in Yemen’s civil war

Tuesday, 7 February 2017 - 9:00am
"I saw people scattered on the floor. They were dead. I saw only half bodies…my clothes were burnt, my hands, my legs, and my face. I was completely burnt."
Zuhair, 13, injured in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Sana’a, Yemen
 
Zuhair, 13, was badly burned in an airstrike on a crowded funeral in Yemen.
 
*New raw & social videos, stills and testimony available here*
 
As a legal challenge begins on Tuesday seeking to ban UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Save the Children is calling for an independent international investigation into alleged war crimes by all parties in Yemen’s bitter civil war. 
 
Nearly 1,400 children have been killed and thousands injured in attacks on civilian homes, schools and hospitals since the conflict escalated in March 2015.
 
Our team in Sana’a spoke to a 13-year-old boy who was severely burned in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a funeral last October. 140 people died in the attack.
 
The boy, Zuhair, put out the flames that engulfed his clothes with his bare hands – and even now wakes in the night, screaming. 
 
Save the Children is helping Zuhair and other children like him with psychological support.
 
"I saw people scattered on the floor. They were dead. I saw only half bodies" Zuhair tells our field staff in the interview. "My clothes were burnt, my hands, my legs, and my face. I was completely burnt."
 
Zuhair’s mother talks of her family’s attempt to treat his burns, so impoverished by two years of war that they were initially forced to turn to creams and tomato paste rather than seek medical care.
 
"Now he screams while sleeping," Zuhair’s mother says of her son. "He would be asleep and his eyes are closed yet he screams so much and says things that would scare you: 'Mum, the missile will hit. Mum, look after my sisters. Mum, hold me. Mum please do something.' He has changed a lot."
 
Kevin Watkins, Save the Children CEO, said:
 
“There have been clear violations of international law by all parties in this conflict, but the fact remains that Saudi Arabia is a British ally and the Saudi-led coalition is killing children. We should be proud of the difference UK aid is making in Yemen – it is keeping children alive. But at the same time Britain is licensing the sale of military equipment to a country that is acting in defiance of international humanitarian law. 
 
The UK should not be supporting through arms sales a country that is killing children, and bombing schools and health centres. We must put a stop to these double standards and halt all arms exports to Saudi Arabia until those responsible for horrific acts of violence against children are held to account. The UK must put the defence of children before the commercial interests of arms exporters.”
 
ENDS
 
Spokespeople are available for interview, including Save the Children staff just back from Yemen. For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact r.villar@savethechildren.org.uk or call +44 20 7012 6841 (+44 7831 650409 out of hours) 
 
Stills and case studies available here: http://storycentral.savethechildren.org.uk/?c=42953&k=f921c0cb89 
 
*Support Save the Children’s Yemen Crisis Appeal here*