On Tuesday, the Saudi-led coalition “celebrated” the fourth anniversary of its war against the poorest country in the Gulf with yet another bombing, which killed eight people, including five children.
The target was a gas station in Ritaf, in the northwest of Yemen—but the devastation also engulfed the hospital next door, run by Save the Children. It took place at 9:30 a.m. local time, 30 minutes after the start of the hospital’s opening hours.
“Many patients and staff were arriving on a busy morning,” Save the Children wrote in a statement on their website. “They included a health worker who died along with their two children. … In addition to those killed and missing, an additional eight people were wounded in the attack.” On Wednesday, the NGO put up an updated statement after one more child died from his injuries: “An 8-year-old boy was the youngest person killed. Another boy, aged 10, two boys aged 12 and one boy aged 14 also lost their lives. The total death toll has now reached eight.”
“In Yemen, we are supporting 167 clinics and 23 hospitals in 11 governorates, mostly in the northwest,” Daniela Fatarella, deputy director of Save the Children Italy, told il manifesto. “We help them with medical personnel, equipment, training the local staff and funding. In four years of war, we have managed to reach 180,000 children.”
The NGO works everywhere, from primary healthcare facilities to schools: “We also respond to emergencies: diphtheria, diarrhea, cholera. These are diseases that one would think are easily treatable, but they must be fought proactively with vaccination campaigns. Every day, thousands of Yemeni children become infected with them. Even before the war, the sewage systems were in critical condition. Now, after four years of bombing, it is almost impossible to have access to clean water.”
The healthcare system is in a state of collapse because of the Saudi airstrikes, which, according to several UN reports and reports from human rights NGOs, intentionally target infrastructure, residential areas, hospitals and schools. These have reduced the population to a condition of starvation.
“Up to now, 85,000 children have died from hunger and disease,” Fatarella tells us. “We also treat acute malnutrition. These children must be cared for in one of two ways: either with high-protein nutritious food that allows recovering normal weight if taken on a weekly basis, or with special treatment in the nutrition centers when a child is too weak to be able to eat by themselves.”
These programs and projects are of crucial importance. However, as Save the Children pointed out, they are being undermined by the continuation of the conflict and the lack of international pressure on the warring parties, who are still the ones making the rules.
“It is difficult to get aid in, because of the embargo on the Saudi port of Hodeidah. At the same time, mobility within the country, especially towards rural areas, is difficult, both because of the need to obtain transit permits for persons and goods and because of the continuous bombing,” Fatarella said.
Over four years, there have been 19,000 airstrikes, an average of one every two hours.
The air raid on Tuesday (which was followed by others on Wednesday in Taiz, Saada and Haradh) marked four years from the start of the operation by the coalition of Sunni countries led by Saudi Arabia on March 26, 2015, later renamed “Decisive Storm.” It never achieved its goals: the Houthi rebel movement, which had occupied the capital Sana’a in September 2014 to demand greater political inclusion, is still in action.
However, the war, which some have been calling the “Saudi Vietnam,” is actually working out very well for some: the arms industry is getting a lot of business, as Riyadh has quickly risen to the top of the rankings of arms importer countries. Everyone knows where it’s getting the weapons: from the United States, but also from Europe, chiefly the UK.
Italy also has a leading role in supplying arms to the Saudis, with the Sardinian factory in Domusnovas owned by the German RWM group, which has made some of the bombs being used in Yemen against the civilian population, as was proven by both Italian and foreign investigations.
Three days ago, a demonstration took place in Rome by those who have been fighting for many years against the violation of Law 185/1990, which prohibits the sale of arms to countries that are at war or that are violating human rights. A delegation of the “Sardegna Pulita” (“Clean Sardinia”) movement took to the streets of the capital, together with other pacifist organizations from all over Italy.