Ali is a seven-year old boy. He lies with his head bandaged, a needle stuck in his arm and he is breathing with great difficulty.
He is close to death, lying in a makeshift shelter that is an emergency field clinic in Yemen, where the last of the dextrose is running out. Flies buzz around his mouth, which has hardly seen food in weeks. He is skeletal, from severe malnutrition, and is just one of many more children lying around on mats on the ground. They, too, will die from malnutrition and cholera-induced diarrhoea. There is no clean water and as many as 2,000 people have died from cholera and more than half a million people are infected in the past three months alone. The videos of the horrific conditions are too painful to watch in full.
The Saudis have blocked the supply of humanitarian aid to Yemen since 2015 to starve the population into submission. It has created the worst humanitarian tragedy in the world where as many as three million people are internally-driven from their homes. Many thousands of children are being slaughtered in this three-year-old savage, cruel war. The bombing by the coalition maim and murder civilians, destroy hospitals, schools and markets in a war to regain control of the poorest country in the world but a nation in a vital strategic location. As many as 7,600 have been killed and 42,000 maimed and wounded. Medical facilities are destroyed and food and clear water are in short supply causing the cholera outbreak.
The warring parties are not interested in any oil or wealth of this poorest nation in the world. It has none. They want it for military bases and strategic advantage. No cost is too great to achieve the political and militaristic aims to drive out the Iranian-backed rebels and install their ally president Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi. So it is a kind of proxy “religious” war- Arabian Sunni against Iranian Shiite. The life and death of Ali, a small boy, seven years old and thousands of children, is nothing to them.
The United Nations had Saudi Arabia on the blacklist of nations that wage war against children in 2015, but the Saudi government threatened to withhold humanitarian aid from the UN projects around the world and Saudi Arabia was dropped from the list of child killers.
This year, the 2016 report will likely be censored too. But the leaked report says that while the rebels, ISIS and the Al Qaeda are responsible for many casualties, it is the coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, that is blamed for destroying three-quarters of the schools and hospitals and half of the children killed.
The Saudi-led coalition of Sunni Arabs is supported by the United States and the United Kingdom. The British government approved the sales of arms worth £283 million sterling pounds even after the Saudis bombed a funeral hall killing as many as 140 civilians, women and children and wounding many more. Campaigners have alleged that numerous atrocities have been committed by the coalition and despite this, in 2015, the UK sold one billion sterling pounds of bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia for its war against Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen. After campaigning, according to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, sales dropped to £4 million pounds and £263 million in warplane aircraft parts. Money is truly the power that rules and kills the children of our world.
The amount of £263 million does not reflect many other sales of weapons, guns for combat aircraft, assault rifles and ammunition exported by the UK and approved by government. Who benefits, you ask. The wealthy corporation and their shareholders, growing rich on the death of children and women.
The United States, the biggest exporter of arms in the world, is not free of responsibility and guilt in the death of civilians. Since March 2015 when the bombing by Saudi Arabia of Yemen began, US-supplied missiles were allegedly used in 23 unlawful airstrikes and the cluster bombs that harm children were found to have been used in at least twelve attacks but many more were not investigated by Human Rights Watch due to the intensity of the bombing. No less than US$20 billion worth of weapons were sold to Saudi Arabia in 2015 alone.
While the UK and US politicians and generals do not pull the trigger, they hand the guns to those who do. The horrific extent and intensity of the bombing and killing is only possible by the involvement and complicity of the industrial military complex.
Should not the 2016 UN report on the child killing nations and the humanitarian crises in Yemen name not only the Saudi government as the child killing nation but the enablers and arms suppliers in the UK and US too? Do they not arm and supply the weapons that are killing the children? The rebels and the other terrorist groups are to blame too but not to the same extent where the coalition has the massive overwhelming air superiority and bombing power. It’s war is from the air, not on the ground. It is war by bombing, siege, starvation and disease and the death of the children is the terrible result.
What more do we need to know to be disgusted, angry and turn from all violence and reject the notion of war as a solution to conflict? We all need to protest against the arms trade and work for peace and justice in the world especially for children, the most vulnerable of all.
– Fr. Shay Cullen