80,000 Yemeni Children Suffer from Persistent...
Yemen’s Ministry of Human Rights announced in a report that almost five years of continuous conflict in Yemen have left a devastating impact on the mental health of children, and that 80,000 kids suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other related issues. The Yemeni ministry further highlighted that while 24 million and one hundred thousand people are in dire need of assistance, including food, healthcare, water, accommodation and education, more than 70 thousand civilians, who are suffering from conditions that cannot be treated inside Yemen, cannot receive required medication as the Saudi-led coalition does not allow the opening of a humanitarian air bridge from Sana'a International Airport.
Yemeni Minister of Public Health and Population Taha al-Mutawakel, citing a new report by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), stated on December 12 that 300 Yemeni children suffering from various diseases, including cancer, lose their lives every day. Mutawakel said the Saudi-led military coalition waging a war on Yemen is still preventing cancer patients from traveling abroad and barring them from crossing a UN-sponsored humanitarian air bridge.
According to Save the Children, there is a generation of Yemeni children in need of mental health support to avert lifelong psychological damage. Yemen is one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a child today. A child in Yemen has already lived through more than 18,000 airstrikes in his or her lifetime. The ongoing brutality means children are being consistently exposed to extreme violence, further heightening the risk of psychological damage.
The children of Yemen have watched their friends and family members die before their eyes or be buried under the rubble of their collapsing homes. They have watched their schools and hospitals be targeted and destroyed, been denied access to life-saving food and medicine, and have been torn apart from the life they once knew. The prolonged exposure to war, stress and uncertainty can be extremely upsetting for children and create issues and challenges that last a lifetime.
Yet Yemen has barely any mental health services or sufficient support for children suffering from distress. More than half of all health facilities have closed or are only partially functioning. With the right help, many of the harms can be mitigated and healed.
Reports on the psychological effects of war on children seem to be short, however, a survey published in 2018 that spoke to nearly 1,000 children in Sana'a, found that 79 per cent showed signs of serious psychological consequences as a result of the conflict. The study reveals that in the first year of the conflict family members began noticing children bedwetting, refusing to be alone or not wanting to leave the house. In general, children in conflict zones often experience bedwetting, nightmares, hypervigilance, grief, depression, anxiety, aggression, feeling withdrawn, and numerous other challenges. This can impair their ability to engage in daily life, including an inability to focus or perform well in school, learn new information, form relationships and attachments, or find a sense of safety. Another study conducted in 2018 by Family Counselling and Development Foundation in Yemen, over five million people in Yemen have been found to be psychologically affected by the war.
There is little community awareness in Yemen of how to support children and families whose mental health and wellbeing are suffering. Also, many of those who suffer from severe distress do not have access to the services they need due to general lack of trained staff and stigma. This is a gap the international community is trying to fill during this critical time.
“The problem of mental health in Yemen is an invisible issue, largely ignored by the Yemeni government, and the world. People in Yemen face continuous suffering, but little action is being taken to support them,” said Dr. Fawziah Al-Ammar, a psychology expert. “Sustainable peace and a positive future for Yemen require that urgent steps be taken to respond to the mental health crisis,” said Waleed Alhariri, director of the US office of the Sana’a Center.
Compiled by: Negar Paidar