Children in Gaza are in desperate need.
Donate today
By Lara Robertson
25 March 2024

No child should ever have to grow up in a war zone, but for many of Yemen’s children, a life of violence, loss, hunger and displacement is all they have ever known.  

Nine years of conflict have left the country on the verge of collapse, with more than 4.5 million people displaced from their homes and 18.2 million people, or over half the population, requiring humanitarian assistance, including 9.8 million children. Sadly, since the escalation of the conflict in 2015, 11,500 children have been killed or injured, while thousands more have been recruited to fight. In 2023, a child died every 15 minutes in Yemen, mainly from preventable causes. 

Mass displacement, poverty, and the collapse of basic services including hospitals, schools and sanitation have left millions of children without access to adequate food, clean water, healthcare and education, and vulnerable to life-threatening diseases including cholera and measles. Conditions are particularly dire for those who have been forced to flee their homes due to the violence and move into temporary camps.  

9.8 million

children need humanitarian assistance

2.7 million

children are acutely malnourished

4.5 million

school-aged children are not attending school

Nine years since the conflict escalated, the needs of Yemen’s children are greater than ever, but the generosity of people like you has given them hope for a brighter future.   

Capturing hunger and hope through the camera lens 

Few have witnessed the horrific impact of the conflict on Yemen’s children in such stark detail as Yemeni photographer Ala'a Noman. Before the war, Ala’a loved to capture scenes of joy and happiness to show the beauty of Yemen to the world. But since the conflict began, he has turned his lens to the plight of children and mothers experiencing malnutrition. 

Ala’a has seen firsthand how families across Yemen are struggling to find enough nutritious food to eat, leading many children to develop severe acute malnutrition, a condition that can become deadly or lead to lifelong issues if left untreated. For many families in Yemen, the cost of medical treatment, let alone food, is sadly out of reach.  

A young man smiles as he holds his infant child in his home in Yemen.
Sameh plays with his son Sanad at their home in Yemen. Sanad was suffering from severe acute malnutrition but his condition has now improved after he received treatment with the support of UNICEF and our partners.

Thanks to the support of generous people like you, some children with severe acute malnutrition like little Sanad are now on the mend after receiving free treatment at a UNICEF-supported hospital in Yemen. In 2023, UNICEF supported the treatment of more than 400,000 severely acutely malnourished children including Sanad.  

"I hope with all my heart that malnourished children recover, grow up, play and enjoy life get strong and be able to build their country."

Ala'a Noman
Yemeni photographer

Times are tough but Al-Bara’a is hopeful for the future 

At just 14 years old, Al-Bara'a shoulders more responsibility than most boys his age. Since 2020, his family has been living in a camp for internally displaced persons after the conflict forced them to leave their home. His father and two siblings have a disability, so Al-Bara'a supports his family by selling mineral water to pedestrians and car drivers every day after school.  

It is an exhausting day, as he must also carry his 13-year-old sister, Ibtikar, who has a disability and cannot walk, on his back during the 30-minute walk to and from school. Al-bara’a and Ibtikar study at a temporary learning space, one of the hundreds that UNICEF has created for internally displaced children in Sudan.  

A young boy carries his sister on his back as he walks to school.
Every day, 14-year-old Al-Bara’a carries his 13-year-old sister, Ibtikar, who has a disability and cannot walk, to take her to and from school.
© UNICEF/UNI530320/Alhamdani

A child of Albara’a’s age should be in ninth grade, but he has missed out on a lot of school due to displacement and work, so he is in sixth grade. Since he started school in the camp, he has become much better at mathematics, and dreams of becoming a pilot in the future.   

In 2023, UNICEF supported two million children in Yemen by providing formal and non-formal education opportunities, learning materials, supplies and professional development of teachers. 

"After a tiring day of going to school in the morning and taking my sister to school on my back, I come home in the afternoon, feeling exhausted. I want to sleep, but I have to go to work. And so it is the same routine every day."

Al-Bara'a, 14

Education provides a lifeline for young mothers in Yemen 

Like many young girls in Yemen, the war forced 16-year-old Yousra into marriage and motherhood at an early age. When her home was bombed during the conflict, she had no choice but to flee with her brother who later married her off when she was just 12 years old due to financial struggles. She had her first child a year later, and Yousra is now a mother of three.  

In Yemen, more than 30 per cent of girls marry before they reach the age of 18. Once they drop out of school, there are limited opportunities for them to catch up on education, which results in a vicious generational cycle of illiteracy and poverty. 

A woman writes in a notebook during a lesson as an infant child sits in her lap and an older child stands next to the desk.
Yousra, 16, and her daughters attend a lesson at a school for children who could not afford or dropped out of formal education in Yemen. After dropping out of school several years ago, she now takes basic literacy and numeracy lessons supported by UNICEF.
© UNICEF/UNI530019/Gabreez

For Yousra, who had not attended school since she became married, education was not something she could afford until free basic literacy and numeracy classes supported by UNICEF were offered at a school near the camp for internally displaced persons where she lives.  

Every morning, Yousra cooks and cleans before going to school after midday. She brings her daughters with her, and when they go to sleep at night, she uses the time to review what she learned that day. Despite the challenges, Yousra’s reading and writing skills are improving, and she looks forward to getting a job one day. 

"When we go to the hospital, I can now read [the doctor’s note]. If there is something that needs to be read, I read it myself and I can write myself."

Yousra, 16
Mother of three

How UNICEF is helping children and families in Yemen and beyond 

Thanks to the incredible support of our donors, UNICEF has strengthened our ongoing presence in Yemen and continues to work alongside our partners on the ground to provide humanitarian assistance to children and families in need, from providing essential therapeutic food to help treat malnutrition in children, to rehabilitating damaged schools and establishing safe learning spaces for those displaced by the war. 

In 2023 in Yemen, UNICEF and our partners: 

  • screened more than 4.6 million children under five for malnutrition,  
  • vaccinated more than 1.1 million children between 6 months and 10 years with measles rubella (MR) vaccine, 
  • reached more than two million people, including over 1.1 million children, across Yemen with provision of safe drinking water,  
  • and distributed learning material kits that benefited more than 1.2 million children across the country. 
A young schoolboy smiles into the camera as he attends a school lesson using UNICEF school supplies.
At a UNICEF-supported school in Yemen, students received back-to-school supplies at the start of the school year.
© UNICEF/UNI430424/ALfilastini

Together, we have achieved so much, but now is not the time to look away. Yemen’s children need us more than ever. 

As Yemen enters its tenth year of war, the country is at a crossroads. With peace talks underway, there is hope that an end to the conflict is within reach. But with a recent rise in regional tensions and an escalation of violence in the Red Sea and Yemen, the situation remains very precarious, and the needs of children and their families only continue to grow. The worsening effects of climate change are only making matters worse, with more intense floods, droughts and sandstorms pushing more children into displacement and malnutrition. 

No child should ever have to experience the horrors of war – every child deserves to be safe.  But while the conflict in Yemen continues, we need your help to deliver for every child, no matter what.  

Donate to Children in Emergencies

UNICEF is providing urgent assistance to children. But we can’t do it alone. We need your help today.