Mines, unexploded ordnance threaten children’s lives in Yemen

Mines, unexploded ordnance threaten children’s lives in Yemen

Last year, one Yemeni child died every two days due to mines, figures show

By Muhammed Emin Canik

ISTANBUL (AA) – Two children were killed and one was wounded this week in mine explosions in Yemen’s port city of Al-Hudaydah.

In war-torn Yemen, mines laid by Houthi rebels in residential areas and on roads continue to threaten the lives of children, despite international efforts to clear them.

Conflicts between the legitimate government and the Houthis, which had been occurring sporadically since the 1960s and have been ongoing for the past nine years, pose a serious security threat, especially for children living in rural areas.

- Mine-clearing efforts in Al-Hudaydah

According to UN reports, in June, eight people were killed in six mine explosions in Al-Hudaydah, one of the most heavily mined areas in Yemen.

The Yemen Executive Mine Action Center in the capital Sanaa reported that during a clearing operation in Al-Hudaydah covering an area of 21,478 square meters (231,187 square feet), 44 mines, one homemade explosive, two cluster munitions and 76 unexploded ordnances were rendered safe.

The Yemen Mine Action Coordination Center in Aden also announced that 3.6 square kilometers (1.39 square miles) of hazardous areas were identified in Al-Hudaydah, of which 8,000 square meters (86,111 square feet) were cleared and six unexploded ordnances were destroyed.

- Saudi Arabia clears over 408,000 explosives in Yemen

According to the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (MASAM) launched in Yemen, a total of 408,633 explosives have been destroyed since mid-2018.

In the operations conducted in a 48-square-kilometer (18.5-square-mile) area, more than 254,000 unexploded ordnances, over 6,000 anti-personnel mines, more than 140,000 anti-tank mines and approximately 8,000 improvised explosive devices were neutralized.

MASAM Program Manager Osama Al-Gosaibi said that mine-clearing efforts in Yemen would take 10 more years if sufficient funding and equipment are provided.

But problems caused by the civil war prevent precise access to the total number of mines and unexploded ordnance in Yemen.

- Child died every 2 days in 2022 due to mines

According to a study by the non-governmental organization Save the Children, approximately every two days, a child lost their life or was wounded in Yemen due to mines and unexploded ordnance in 2022.

The figures represent the highest level in the past five years.

In 2021, 199 children in Yemen fell victim to mines and unexploded ordnance, accounting for 55% of the total child deaths in the country.

In 2018, 68 child deaths were recorded due to mines and unexploded ordnance, making up 7% of all child deaths.

During the cease-fire applied through the UN between the Yemeni government and Iran-backed Houthis last year, the return of civilians to their homes in conflict areas increased the risk of children encountering mines and unexploded ordnance.

Children are at risk of exposure to these deadly war remnants during their daily activities such as playing, fetching water, collecting firewood and herding, as they are not familiar with mines and unexploded ordnance and do not know how to take precautions against them.

In addition, the data indicate that nearly half of the mine and unexploded ordnance incidents that children are exposed to result in fatalities.

Children wounded by explosives commonly suffer from physical disabilities including limb loss, vision impairment and hearing loss.

Besides physical injuries, children affected by explosions experience psychological disorders such as sleep disturbances, fear and anxiety.

Also, in Yemen, where the healthcare system has collapsed, children wounded by mines and unexploded ordnance cannot access long-term health services such as rehabilitation and physical therapy that would reintegrate them into society.

Children who have been displaced due to internal conflicts and now live in camps are said to be at higher risk of encountering these explosives due to the lack of education on how to protect themselves from them and the impact of natural disasters such as floods.

- Internal war in Yemen and deadly mines

Since September 2014, Iran-backed Houthis have controlled the capital Sanaa and some regions in Yemen, while Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces have been supporting the Yemeni government against the Houthis since March 2015.

According to reports from the Yemeni government and human rights organizations, since the start of the internal war in 2014, the Houthis have laid around 2 million mines across the country. These mines have caused the deaths and injuries of thousands of civilians.

Human rights organizations estimate that there are more than 8,000 "mine victims" in Yemen, the majority of whom are women and children.

*Writing by Esra Tekin in Istanbul

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