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Waiting for Peace: Yemen's Children Speak Out
What is it like to be a child in a country where more than 22 million people need humanitarian assistance?
Children in Yemen are growing up under impossible conditions: Homes are in ruins, schools have been destroyed and medical care is hard to come by. Landmines and unexploded ordinance are a constant threat. More than half the population wakes up hungry every day because spiraling inflation has pushed food prices sky-high. As Yemen's civil war nears its fourth anniversary, the humanitarian crisis has become the world's largest emergency.
All children deserve a healthy and happy childhood. Yemen's children did not start this war, but they are paying the highest price. The interviews below were conducted by young people in Yemen who picked up video recorders, determined to help other Yemeni children tell their powerful stories:
"It has been a long time since I went to school. There were no teachers and no one has built a school," says 13-year-old Saqr to videographer Alawia Munir, 18. "I hope the war stops and we feel safe to be able to live and be in good health."
Saqr and his five younger brothers live in abject poverty in a cramped cinderblock room with only the clothes on their backs. An estimated 3 million people in Yemen have lost their homes because of the war. Saqr works on his uncle's food cart and dreams of going back to school one day.
"War separated me from my father, school, friends, brothers and my married sisters. We can't go back to Hodeidah, because we don't have the money to travel," Malak tells videographer Reem Al Shara'abi, before dissolving into tears.
Five months after being forced from their home, she and her mother are living in a small room in another family's house in Sana'a. They sell potatoes to earn a living. "Everything is expensive. If I want something, I can't buy it. We can't buy my mother's diabetes medicine. I wish that my country gets back to the way it was."
Emad can't tell his own story: The 7-year-old was killed when a missile hit the mosque while he was there fetching his friend's father's glasses. In the video above, made by 12-year-old Hajar Abu Baker, Emad's mother, Um Emran, describes the agony of missing her little boy, and how his death has affected his siblings. "I can't talk about Emad. I still can't believe it," she says. "The children who survived aren't normal anymore. I wish that the war stops and we get back the normal life. My last wish is that no more mothers feel what I felt."
"Yemen today is the largest humanitarian operation for UNICEF in the world," says Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. "To continue responding to children's needs, UNICEF requires more than half a billion dollars for its operations in 2019. But humanitarian assistance alone is not the solution to this enormous man-made crisis. The only way out of this mayhem is through a man-made political settlement and massive re-investment in Yemen with children at the center."
UNICEF and partners are working tirelessly in Yemen, Syria, South Sudan, Bangladesh and around the world to save and protect children. With a presence in 190 countries and territories, UNICEF has helped save more children's lives than any other humanitarian organization in the world.
Follow UNICEF Yemen on Facebook to see other stories in the Power of Twenty video project supported by UNICEF and implemented by Wujooh Foundation for Media and Development to show the humanitarian situation in Yemen.
Top photo: On December 4, 2018, children wait to receive health services at the UNICEF-supported Hashed Polyclinic in Aden, Yemen. © UNICEF/UN0262508/Abdulhaleem