Half a Million Yemeni Children Drop Out of School Due to Saudi War

Nearly half a million children have dropped out of school since the 2015 escalation of the conflict in Yemen, when Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in the country’s civil war, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) revealed Tuesday.

That brings the number of children without access to education to two million, as minors are increasingly recruited in the fighting: at least 2,419 children have been recruited by armed groups since March 2015, according to UNICEF. Due to the ongoing conflict, more than 2,500 schools are out of use, with two thirds damaged by attacks, 27 percent closed, and 7 percent used for military purposes or as shelters for displaced civilians.

“Almost three quarters of public school teachers have not been paid their salaries in over a year, putting the education of an additional 4.5 million children at grave risk,” UNICEF warned.

“An entire generation of children in Yemen faces a bleak future because of limited or no access to education,” said Meritxell Relaño, UNICEF’s Yemen representative.

“The journey to school has also become dangerous as children risk being killed en route,” Relaño said.

“Fearing for their children’s safety, many parents choose to keep their children at home. The lack of access to education has pushed children and families to dangerous alternatives, including early marriage, child labour, and recruitment into the fighting.”

“Close to three quarters of women had been married before the age of 18, while nearly half had been married before age 15,” UNICEF reported.

Nearly 10,000 civilians have been killed in the ongoing conflict since the start of the civil war 3 years ago, when a Saudi-led regional coalition launched a bombing campaign against Iran-backed Houthi rebels who seized control of large parts of the country, including the capital Sana’a. The war has caused the internal displacement of at least 3 million people, and forced at least 200,000 to leave the country.

Amid what the UN has called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, has reached the brink of official famine, with more than half of the country’s population — 26 million — in need of food aid.

The UN will convene a high-level pledging conference on April 3 for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. They have launched an international appeal for $2.96 billion in aid this year. So far they have raised 10 percent of their funding goal.