Yemen

The moment a 13-year-old boy was hit by an airstrike

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Zuhair*, 13, was badly burned in an airstrike on a crowded funeral in Yemen. Zuhair* and his stepfather, Waleed* 45 years old, were at Al-Kubra Hall when two airstrikes hit the hall and killed over 100 mourners © Anas Shahari/Save the Children

"I saw people scattered on the floor. They were dead. I saw only half bodies…my clothes were burnt, my hands, my legs, and my face. I was completely burnt," said Zuhair, 13, injured in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Sana’a, Yemen

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As a legal challenge begins on Tuesday seeking to ban UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia, Save the Children is calling for an independent international investigation into alleged war crimes by all parties in Yemen’s bitter civil war.

Nearly 1,400 children have been killed and thousands injured in attacks on civilian homes, schools and hospitals since the conflict escalated in March 2015.

Our team in Sana’a spoke to a 13-year-old boy who was severely burned in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a funeral last October. 140 people died in the attack.

The boy, Zuhair, put out the flames that engulfed his clothes with his bare hands – and even now wakes in the night, screaming.

Save the Children is helping Zuhair and other children like him with psychological support.

"I saw people scattered on the floor. They were dead. I saw only half bodies" Zuhair tells our field staff in the interview. "My clothes were burnt, my hands, my legs, and my face. I was completely burnt."

Zuhair’s mother talks of her family’s attempt to treat his burns and says they were so impoverished by two years of war that they were initially forced to turn to creams and homemade remedies rather than seek medical care.

"Now he screams while sleeping," Zuhair’s mother says of her son. "He would be asleep and his eyes are closed yet he screams so much and says things that would scare you: 'Mum, the missile will hit. Mum, look after my sisters. Mum, hold me. Mum please do something.' He has changed a lot."

Edward Santiago, Save the Children's Yemen Country Director said:

“There have been clear violations of international law by all parties in this conflict, which is why Save the Children is calling for an immediate and independent UN mandated investigation into abuses. Since the conflict began we have seen schools and hospitals bombed. Nearly 1,400 children have now been killed, and more than 2,140 injured since the conflict escalated in March. This is utterly unacceptable.

“The UK, and all other countries still exporting arms to Saudi-led coalition, must immediately suspend arms sales and take action to ensure that they stop fuelling the brutal conflict.

“The UK and the international community at large must put the defence of children before the commercial interests of arms exporters.”

To arrange an interview of for more information, please contact Simona Sikimic-French Simona.Sikimic@savethechildren.org / Mobile +44 (0) 7826 672131 | Office: +44 (0) 207 012 6400