Homeless Children in Yemen

Painful stories of separation and poverty
Mohammad Jamal Al-Tayari
March 29, 2024

Homeless Children in Yemen

Painful stories of separation and poverty
Mohammad Jamal Al-Tayari
March 29, 2024

Over the past nine years, the suffering of homeless children has worsened in light of the ongoing war and conflict in Yemen, as displaced young people have become a marginalized and vulnerable group, after they found themselves facing enormous challenges, ranging from loss, poverty, and homelessness.

According to estimated data reviewed by Khuyut, the number of homeless children in Yemen has reached about two million, as they face harsh living conditions ranging from lack of food, lack of health care and deprivation of education. Besides, displaced children in Yemen are also easy targets for forced recruitment, sexual exploitation, and hard labor, which distorts their childhood and shatters their dreams and future.

In addition, displaced children suffer as a result of the numerous challenges and difficulties they encounter, including the absence of safe shelter due to misplacing or being separated from their family members, and not having access to adequate nutrition and necessary health care.

A bitter reality personified by the 13-year-old homeless child, Hemayr Al-Hanami, who told his story to Khuyut: saying “I resorted to living on the sidewalk and chewing Qat to escape from the bitter reality.” He added that: “I don’t know how long I will live like this, but I’m trying to feel comfortable with my lifestyle (sleeping on the street sidewalk and chewing Qat) even though it is wrong, and the reason is that I do not know where to go, as I have no family.”

Al-Hanami, who is from the Bani Hushaish area (east of Sana'a), continued his tale: “I lost my mother and father at an early age. So I did not experience the full tenderness of parents' care. Not only that, but I also lost my brothers as a result of difficult circumstances. Now, my three brothers, Moath, Muneer, and Wahib, were forced to join the fighting fronts and they have not returned yet for a year. I have become homeless, living in this popular market, and working for daily wages with Qat sellers, for an amount not exceeding one thousand and five hundred Yemeni riyals." This is equivalent to three US dollars per day.

The phenomenon of homeless children in Yemen represents a real humanitarian tragedy that requires immediate intervention and fundamental solutions, as most children live in harsh and tragic living conditions and indescribable suffering, while being exposed to loss, harassment and exploitation.

Al-Hanami dreams of living in a house with all his brothers. He no longer thinks about anything in life other than securing his personal expenses and the cost of the Qat plant, which he is addicted to chewing as a result of the homelessness he suffers from.

He continues his story saying: “My dream was to go to school and live like other children, but my circumstances forced me to live like this, not caring about anything, sleeping on the sidewalk or in popular hostels.”

Thus, because of his miserable situation and the state of homelessness in which he lives in “Al-Hataresh Market,” this homeless child became ready to enlist and go to the battle fronts, after reaching a dead end in his life, as he said at the conclusion of his story.

Lack of Protection

Amidst the absence of support from local and international humanitarian organizations to provide assistance and protection programs for these children, in terms of provision of the psychological care, education, and support necessary to help them build a better future, there are many miserable stories of displaced children in Yemen that challenge the consciences of the responsible authorities, and call on them to think seriously about the need of urgent protection and care for these innocent victims.

Social researcher Ghanem Al-Sayyadi told Khuyut that in the midst of the war and conflict taking place in Yemen since 2015, children are exposed to heavy burdens that exceed their capability to tolerate. As a result, they found themselves homeless and fighting against harsh conditions that vary between loss, poverty, and separation. This is the cruel reality that casts a shadow over the suffering of millions of children in this troubled country, where their stories vary between tragedy and resilience.

Since 2015, children in Yemen have been suffering from the devastating consequences of war and conflict, as infrastructure has been destroyed, and poverty, hunger, and epidemics have spread significantly, leaving dire humanitarian impacts.

Several studies confirmed that the conflict in Yemen has led to a frightening proliferation of child homelessness phenomenon, among shameful silence and indifference of the conflicting parties of the tragic reality experienced by the Yemeni people, who are paying the price for the failure of government policies, a failure in which they were not a party to the point of homelessness, diaspora, loss, and deprivation of minimum human rights.

In addition, some children's organization says that there are 7 million children who go to sleep hungry every night in Yemen. Every day, 400,000 children face the risk of acute malnutrition and are at risk of death at any moment. There are also more than two million children who do not go to school while those who go to school face low-quality education in overcrowded classrooms.” In the same context, UNICEF reported that nearly 800,000 children have received psychological and social support to help them overcome the traumas they have suffered. Besides, there were about 1.2 million children in Yemen distributed over 31 locations that were raging in conflict, including: Hodeida, Taiz, Hajjah, and Sa'ada, which witnessed severe violence over the past years, especially in the first five years of the war.

On the other hand, article (144) of the Yemeni law on the protection of children living in difficult circumstances stipulates the following: “The state must undertake scientific and practical procedures and measures to verify the suffering of children living in difficult conditions, such as street children, the homeless, and victims of natural disasters and human-made crisis, abused, disadvantaged and socially exploited children, and to ensure that children are not lured into engaging in or involving in illegal acts.”

Displacement and School Closures

According to UN organizations, displaced children face serious risks to their well-being and safety. This applies in particular to hundreds of thousands of unaccompanied or separated children, as they are exposed to an increased threat of trafficking, exploitation, violence and abuse.

Moreover, human rights activist Ahmed Al-Suhaili confirms to Khuyut that homelessness is among the major challenges facing children in Yemen. They have lost their homes and families, and have been displaced across the country in search of safe shelter so that many of them living in temporary camps, while some find themselves homeless or in unsafe housing conditions. According to Al-Suhaili, these children also suffer from a severe lack of health care and education, and are exposed to the risks of forced recruitment, sexual exploitation, and hard labor.

Officials in civil society organizations concerned with childhood believe that the demolition or closure of schools, and conversion into barracks and military targets by various parties to the conflict, is one of the reasons for children dropping out of education in large and unprecedented numbers, which has led to children engaging in the worst forms of labor and homelessness.

Denied Rights

The phenomenon of homeless children in Yemen represents a real humanitarian tragedy that requires immediate intervention and fundamental solutions, as most children live in harsh and tragic living conditions and indescribable suffering, while being exposed to loss, harassment and exploitation.

International organizations call for the rapid establishment of peace, political and security stability in Yemen, as this is a major entry point to address the issue and phenomenon of child displacement. It also stresses the need to provide safe shelter, health and educational facilities to meet their basic needs, and to provide protection programs that include psychological and social support to help mitigate the effects of psychological trauma suffered by children. Moreover, the relevant authorities in Yemen and the international community should take strong measures to combat forced recruitment and sexual exploitation of children.

In an interview with Khuyut, Deputy Director of the Office of the Ministry of Human Rights in Dhammar Governorate, Ibrahim Al-Afarah, stresses the need to impose sanctions by the Yemeni authorities against violators and abusers of children’s rights, and to enhance social awareness and education to reduce outbreak of such harmful phenomena.

Furthermore, Al-Afarah added that: “Sufficient resources and funds should be allocated to meet the needs of displaced children, in addition to the importance of focusing efforts on providing educational and vocational training opportunities for these children, so that they can think about their future.” At the conclusion of his speech, he stressed that children’s rights cannot be waived, and their protection and care must be placed as a top priority for all local parties, with the assistance of the United Nations and the international community. He also appealed to the concerned authorities to take action to support displaced children in Yemen, providing them with the protection and care they deserve, and find real solutions to overcome this dilemma.

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