How Many More Children Must Be Murdered Before The World Takes Action In Yemen?


It has been three years since the achingly silent image of a lifeless child lying face down on a Turkish beach shocked the world.

This senseless death of this child, Alan Kurdi, whose family was fleeing an unfathomable situation in search of safety across the sea inspired our government to open the door to 12,000 refugees fleeing that same war.

The photograph, so difficult to look at but impossible to ignore, moved many Australians to demand action on the Syrian refugee crisis. Collectively, they made a case that our leaders heard and responded to.

A Turkish police officer stands next to migrant child Alan Kurdi's body off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015. (Image: NILUFER DEMIR/AFP/Getty Images)

On Friday, heart-breaking images of maimed school children in Yemen were broadcast across the globe. Their tiny blood-stained backpacks strewn across the dirt next to the wreckage of a bus, mangled beyond recognition by a stray Saudi missile.

Twenty-nine school children aged under 15, dead. They were on their way home from a summer camp, laughing and singing songs as children do. More innocent lives lost to a senseless war.

And today: gut-wrenching photographs of 29 tiny graves  – side by side – as Yemen’s parents prepare to bury their children. The injustice is almost intolerable.

Thousands of Yemenis take part in a mass funeral in the northern Yemeni city of Saada, for children killed in an air strike by the Saudi-led coalition last week. (Image: STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

It’s been three years since the world mourned Alan. It’s also been three years since the Yemen war that has claimed 5000 children began.

I first heard the news about the bus bombing as I dropped my little girl off at school. I felt fury and fear. But mostly, I felt a profound sadness. Once again, children have been robbed of their future by a war they have nothing to do with.

I heard a quote recently that sympathy is looking into the eyes of a suffering child and knowing you have to help, but empathy is knowing that if it weren’t for life’s cruel lottery, that could be your child. That’s how I – like so many other Australians – feel about Yemen’s murdered children.

I know I wasn’t the only parent wondering what those parents thousands of kilometres away must be going through, expecting their children home safe from their summer camp, only to hear they will never hold them again.

I am not ashamed to admit that I cried. Just like the image of little Alan, the images of Yemen’s children have struck a raw nerve. We cannot just scroll past them.

I understand that the situation in Yemen is complicated, but when children become targets of war, you have to question how world leaders can allow this to happen. How much longer must Yemen’s parents endure the intolerable cruelty of watching their children die?

A Yemeni child receives medical treatment after he was injured by an airstrike hitting a bus he was riding on August 12, 2018 at a hospital in Saada, Yemen. (Image: Mohammed Hamoud/Getty Images)

The United Nations wants an independent probe into this incident, but what Yemen’s children need is a plan and a commitment from the world to protect them.  We need an immediate political solution to this crisis.

This attack is a clear breach of the United Nations' Convention of the Rights of the Child, article 38, which states governments must do everything they can to protect and care for children affected by war. It is clear that there has been a consistent failure of regional and global powers to agree on how to end this conflict.

As a leader working in a child rights organisation that provides assistance to thousands of children in developing countries, I am more empowered than most, but sometimes, I still feel helpless. But we do have power, every one of us.

We must do more. Image: Getty.

We can give money to any one of the humanitarian agencies working to protect Yemen’s children. We can write to our MPs and demand they do more to end this. Politicians tend to listen when enough of their constituents ask them to.

We can share these terrible stories and encourage our friends and family to overcome clicktivism-numbness so that they too understand that these are real people, who are suffering right now.

We are not helpless. We all have an opportunity to act so that this horrendous attack isn’t just another forgotten news story, but a turning point in a crisis that has gone on for far too long. My hope is that just one positive will emerge from this horror. Let it be that pivotal moment that that compels more of us to harness our anger and demand justice for Yemen’s children.

Find out more about Plan International’s work to empower and protect children on their website.

Main Image: Getty.