“Mothers are watching their babies die.” Why we must protect Yemen’s children

Child suffering from malnutrition in Yemen,
4-month-old Ali receiving treatment for severe, acute malnutrition in a hospital in Sana’a, Yemen.

The BBC’s heartbreaking film on Yemen’s starving babies and children will shock the world. But sadly the situation is only set to get worse.

Yemen has long been one of the poorest countries in the Middle East but conflict, which escalated 18 months ago, has made a bad situation worse.

A hunger crisis

Families have been forced to flee, people have lost their jobs and livelihoods, and food is now so scarce and unaffordable that we are seeing a major hunger crisis.

Hunger has hit babies and children the hardest.

Now, a third of all children under five are acutely malnourished – around 1.3 million youngsters – and with no end to the conflict in sight, these numbers are likely to get worse.

Donate to our Emergency Fund now.

Mothers are watching their babies die

When mothers who are malnourished themselves are no longer able to breastfeed their babies, they have had to resort to alternatives.

Things like plain water or unpasteurised animal milk which can lead babies with especially low immune systems to infection, diarrhoea and – at worst – death.

Serious lack of healthcare

Yemen’s health system is on the edge of collapse.

So even when families can get their poorly children to the few health facilities still functioning, there aren’t enough medical supplies or electricity to run life-saving incubators and other machines.

Ibrahim, 28, told our Yemeni colleagues why his nine-month-old son Ali was starving:

“There is not enough daily food for my children,” he said.

“I take some food like wheat and rice from the grocery and pay after I sell the sheep. My family misses the meat, fruits and vegetables; we do not have money to buy them because we are poor. Ali’s body was so weak and he was always crying, not sleeping and refused to eat any food.

“When one of my family members gets sick I take them to Bajel hospital. There is a health facility just 5km from home but there aren’t many health services available, they focus mostly on vaccinations as in this area there are no qualified doctors.”

Votte health facility, that was hit by airstrikes in Sa'ada, Yemen.
Votte health facility, that was hit by airstrikes.

How we’re helping

Across Yemen including in Hodeida, where Nawal Al-Maghafi’s powerful BBC film was shot, we’re providing therapeutic feeding programmes, water and sanitation, and healthcare including vaccinations.

But there is only so much NGOs like ours can do. We need the conflict to end to be able to reach every last child.

Alongside preventing children from accessing essential services, the fighting is also threatening the lives of children in other ways.

It’s killed at least 1,162 children and injured 1,723.

Both the Saudi Arabia-led coalition and Houthis and associated opposition forces have been accused of killing and maiming children, as well as attacks on schools and hospitals in violation of international humanitarian law.

What we’re calling for

We’ve been calling on the UK government to back a UN-led independent international mechanism to investigate alleged violations of international humanitarian and human rights laws by all sides in Yemen.

We’ve also been calling for the UK to stop selling arms to any parties to the conflict in Yemen, where there is a risk that they could be used to commit or facilitate serious violations of international law.

The UK and other members of the UN Human Rights Council are meeting in Geneva now and have a rare opportunity to kick start international, independent investigations into the multiple allegations of violations of international law.

The UK must back this to establish the facts about what is happening on the ground, to ensure accountability of perpetrators and, critically, to send a clear signal to fighting forces that children and their families must be protected.

The UK has a chance to lead the way in Geneva and help better protect children and their families in Yemen. If they fail to do so, Yemen’s children will be condemned to more suffering.

Sign our petition now to protect children caught in war.

You can also donate to our Emergency Fund now.


Names changed to protect identity.

Leave a Reply


  • Sanna Löfgren

    Save the children! They are more important than everything!

  • Bobby

    To make sure that human rights violations are investigated and brought to justice.

  • As a mother my heart breaks to think of how much pain these babies are in, please help. Look at them and tell me this is okay? Does your heart also not break?

  • Steve Nolan-Hilton Esq.

    Hello Guys. I have been watching events regarding children who have reached the point of starvation in Yemen. I wanted to raise the issue of one particular parent who was distraught due to her tiny child suffering horribly due to he not being able to acquire ( Lactose Free milk ) for her baby.
    I am pleading with you to assist me to send the Lactose Free milk to the the family of this vulnerable baby. I am not aware of how to achieve this alone with regard to ensuring that the milk which is desperately needed to save this tiny child, can reach her in Yemen.
    I would like to ask if somebody would please contact me as I am desperate to help this family. Please will you help me to help them. asap please guys.
    Sincerely yours, Steve x

  • Hi Steve,

    Thank you so much for your kind offer. Unfortunately we can’t help you send lactose free milk to a specific family, but please be assured that we’re doing everything we can to reach every last child in Yemen. I understand it’s not the same as helping an individual directly, but if you would like to donate to our emergency fund you will help us reach even more children and families who need us: http://www.savethechildren.org.uk/about-us/emergencies

  • Hello to everybody who is helping in this crisis in Yemen, I really appreciate all the people who help children’s in Yemen by donating money or by providing any other help.

    USA is behind all the destruction in middle east, specifically, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Egypt, Iraq, they are either directly attacking this countries or funding for civil war and they are the one who is selling all this weapons including to ISIS, they are the most benefited country with this wars as USA , UK and Europe is the manufacturer and supplier of all this weapons…are we in the position to stop our own country to do so? can we actually stop USA for doing what they at doing, what about human right violation done by USA led army and air force bombing innocent civilians in Iraq, and other Middle East countries to satisfy their political ego and looting this countries for oil, gold and other precious historical things…..If USA want peace will happen in no time in Palestine and all other Middle East Countries but they like to keep adding fuel to the crisis so they can carry on looting and make more money by selling the weapons…it has to be stop and it must stop….

  • Destiny

    I feel so bad I cried while I was reading

  • Destiny

    save these people they are more important, they need help they are hurting and I don’t want them to hurt it just makes me sad 🙁