The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has left severe consequences on its population, including 12 million of its children. Unfortunately, it is estimated that Yemen is home to over a million orphans, a number expected to rise due to recent challenges such as Yemen’s civil war and famine.
Since the beginning of Yemen’s civil war in late 2014, the country has experienced high levels of violence, poverty, and an ongoing famine that has affected over 17 million people. These problems have only progressed resulting in an epidemic of malnourishment, a lack of access to medical services and education, and many lost family members as a result of airstrikes and military violence.
About 2 million children under the age of five are considered malnourished, over 300,000 of whom are experiencing life-threatening acute malnutrition. With more than one million pregnant or breastfeeding mothers classified as acutely malnourished, many children are facing uncertainty within their households without access to food. The rising costs of food —up to a 150% increase— have also made it difficult for households without secure jobs to provide for their children. Before the conflict broke out, Yemen imported around 75 percent of their food and an estimated 80 percent of the population was living below the poverty line. With no money to provide food for their children, even kids with living relatives were brought into orphanages, as it was seen that orphanages had the means to provide for them.
Some children in Yemen have also been orphaned due to a lack of access to much needed medical care. Many of the deaths that leave children orphaned would have been otherwise preventable had adequate healthcare systems been functioning in the country. UNICEF states in their report entitled “Yemen five years on” that only half of the health facilities that existed in 2015 are still operating today, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic. The medical services that are available are dealing with shortages of equipment and staff, and many employees have gone without pay for extended periods of time. Even mothers living near hospitals have passed away as the hospitals they had to reach were under threat of attack, making it harder to reach these locations.
The casualties that have taken place so far with the war have also been responsible for the number of orphans in Yemen. Airstrikes are often the cause of these civilian casualties, as many hit homes and vehicles. Children often lose parents in these attacks and many have also lost their lives.
The orphanages in Yemen are experiencing difficulty in ensuring that they provide a stable and secure environment for the children. The risks involving the safety and security of children as a result of the famine have led to the deaths of 85,000 children. As many families can’t afford to provide for their children during such difficult times, many have placed their children in orphanages. However, many of these centers may have to close due to a lack of funding. Some of the children who used to be in their care have returned to stay with relatives after conditions worsened. One of the greatest emerging concerns if orphanages can no longer afford to continue to operate is that many of the children will become homeless, and face additional risks to their lives, including child soldier recruitment and child marriage.
In order to help the millions of children that are living through such a crisis, it is critical to prevent the orphanage population from increasing. With the major crisis Yemen continues to experience, it is imperative that action is taken to prevent further loss of life. One of the ways that this can be done is through supporting aid organizations through monetary donations, as the current situation can make it hard for various groups to access Yemen. Groups like Save the Children, UNICEF and International Rescue Committee have been able to offer food, security, and medical services as a result of such donations. In order to learn more about the crisis in Yemen, Human Rights Watch has released a world report for 2020, which covers many of the dangers Yemeni face. As for the future of the crisis, COVID 19 has only increased the call for humanitarian assistance, including support for clean water and sanitation programs.