- Landmines and other explosive devices killed or injured a child every two days during 2022, reveals Save the Children’s analysis
- Share of child casualties from landmines and other explosive devices increased during 2022 truce, highlighting the deadly legacy of the conflict
- As Yemen enters its ninth year of war, Save the Children calls for immediate action to protect children from these deadly weapons.
SANA’A, 23 March 2023 – A child in Yemen was killed or injured by landmines or other explosive devices every two days on average during 2022, according to new analysis from Save the Children.
This was the highest rate for at least five years, despite the UN-led truce from April to October.
While hostilities de-escalated during this period, the proportion of child casualties caused by these deadly weapons rose as families returned home to land that had been used as battlefields. This highlights the deadly legacy of the conflict, the aid agency said.
The war in Yemen has littered the country with landmines and unexploded ordnance (UXO)— weapons that failed to detonate such as artillery shells, grenades, mortars, rockets, and bombs.
Children encounter them in the course of everyday activities such as playing, collecting firewood and water, and tending to livestock. According to Save the Children’s analysis, almost half of all landmine and explosive remnants of war incidents involving children were deadly.
Maha*, 10, from Taiz, stepped on a landmine while collecting firewood with her sister last October. Even though Maha was rushed to the hospital for surgery, she lost her left eye and had her right hand amputated. Her sister Maya*, 16, was covered in shrapnel and badly injured both legs.
Maha said: “If I could make a drawing about war, I would draw people with amputated hands and legs, injured eyes, injured arms and legs, and people walking with crutches,”
Save the Children’s Deputy Country Director for Yemen, Ashfaq Ahmad, said: “The fact that more and more children are being killed and injured by landmines and other explosive remnants of war is a damning indictment of the parties to the conflict who continue to use these weapons.
“As the country enters its ninth year of conflict, this report is a stark reminder of the devastating impact the war is having on children, Yemen's most vulnerable population.
“We cannot continue to stand by and watch as children's lives are torn apart by these horrific weapons. All parties to the conflict must prioritise the protection of children and ensure that they are no longer exposed to the risks posed by landmines and other explosive devices.”
While direct child casualties from armed violence, such as airstrikes, shelling or crossfire, have decreased since 2018, child casualties caused by the explosive remnants of war have risen - from an average of one every five days in 2018 to one every two days in 2022.
The report, ‘Watching Our Every Step’, found that child casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance rose to 199 in 2022 – or 55% of all children casualties that year – compared to 68 in 2018, which was 7% of overall child casualties.
Decades of repeated conflict since the 1960s have left explosive devices scattered across the country, posing a constant threat to children's safety, particularly in rural areas. Children may lack the experience to identify or avoid them.
With Yemen’s health system on the verge of collapse and few qualified rehabilitation specialists, children injured by these deadly weapons do not have access to the long-term care needed to recover their mobility, return to school, and reintegrate into community life.
Children in displacement camps are at greater risk of getting hurt by explosive devices due to a lack of mine risk education and high risk of floods, which can cause these weapons to shift and drift. Out of the 194 child victims of landmines and other explosive devices Save the Children supported between 2020 and 2022, nearly one in four were internally displaced.
Common injuries treated by Save the Children included amputation of upper or lower limbs and hands, as well as loss of sight and hearing. In some cases, incidents led to permanent disability due to shrapnel and injuries to the spine.
Apart from physical injuries, children also reported the psychological distress they endured following explosive incidents, including trouble sleeping and daily fear and anxiety.
Jihad, a psychosocial specialist volunteer with Save the Children in Taiz, stepped on a landmine several years ago and now has a prosthetic leg. He uses his own experience to help reassure children like Maha and Miya that they will still be able to do anything they set their mind to.
“We enrolled the sisters in our psychosocial support program,” said Jihad. “Throughout the weeks following the incident, I made sure their family was fully aware of the different phases of the physical, emotional, and psychological struggles that the girls would be facing and provided guidance on how to deal with each of them... My work with Save the Children is focused on helping children like Maha and Maya overcome these challenges and restore their confidence.”
Save the Children is calling on all parties to the conflict to take immediate action to protect children from these deadly weapons. This includes ending the use of mines, clearing mined areas, and raising awareness of the risks among communities to prevent further tragedies.
This report underlines the urgent need for the UK Government to re-engage and restore its focus on Yemen to end the violence and secure justice for Yemen’s children. Save the Children is calling on the UK Government to boost funding for the humanitarian response, hold perpetrators of violations against children to account and stop selling arms that are fuelling the conflict.
The child rights organisation is also calling on all parties to the conflict to comply with International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law, avoid the use of explosive devices in populated areas, and guarantee humanitarian access.
Save the Children has been working in Yemen for 60 years, implementing a wide range of programmes in education, child protection, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and emergency response across most of the country Save the Children Yemen provides medical care and assistive devices to child victims of explosive devices, including landmines as well as services such as psychosocial support, cash assistance, and referral services.
*Names changed to protect privacy
Full content package, including a case study of Maha and Maya and a VLOG from Jihad, can be found here
NOTES TO EDITOR:
- Save the Children’s analysis shows trends in child casualties from landmines and unexploded ordnance during the period January 2018 to November 2022, including before, during, and after the UN-brokered truce from April to October 2022. The findings rely on original analysis of data collected by the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project (CIMP), interviews with nine humanitarian mine action experts, and surveys conducted with 13 children from Taiz in January 2023. This included nine girls and four boys, aged between seven and 17, who had directly experienced a landmine or explosive ordnance incident. Interviews were conducted by local social workers trained in psychosocial support to ensure the safety and wellbeing of the child.
- Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) - Explosive ordnance that has been primed, fuzed, armed or otherwise prepared for use or used. It may have been fired, dropped, launched, or projected yet remains unexploded either through malfunction or design or for any other reason.
- Explosive Devices in this PR refers to landmines and explosive remnants of war, such as unexploded ordnance (UXO).
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