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Yemeni War is ‘Completely Man Made,’ Says Save the Children CEO

June 4, 2019, 8:07 PM UTC

Efforts to end, or even lessen the impact, of five years of war in Yemen are fighting mostly against indifference, the CEO of charity Save the Children said Tuesday, and the result is the death of more than 100,000 children from hunger and malnutrition since the conflict began five years ago.

“No one cares really about Yemen,” said Helle Thorning-Schmidt, CEO of the charity and a former prime minister of Denmark. “The Saudis don’t care, the Iranians don’t really care, the Americans don’t care. As long as that is the case, it is the responsibility for the rest of . . . the international community to do something.”

Speaking at Fortune’s Most Powerful Women conference in London, alongside award-winning Yemeni film maker Khadija Al-Salami, Thorning-Schmidt said the crisis was “completely man-made” and said that the charity has now been unable to bring aid into the country for months.

“The suffering comes from the fact that it’s not possible to get in with supplies, medicine, health services, food,” she said. “Save the Children has been caught in a blockade for many many months now, and we spend more time in checkpoints than we do actually getting access.”

The war in Yemen is now in its fifth year, and the country is now divided between areas controlled by the Hadi government and Houthi forces, while a Saudi-led coalition has blockaded the country and made the transport of people or goods in or out extremely difficult.

The resulting war has resulted in mass casualties, and has also traumatized even young children, said Al-Salami, whose 2018 documentary on the conflict followed three young children.

One, an 11-year-old boy named Ahmed, was obsessed with weapons at the start of the film, using an old rifle to pretend to shoot at planes flying overhead, said Al-Salami.

Over time, through the filming, the children changed and became able to talk about their emotions and the impact of the war, she said.

“Even Ahmed became different, he started crying,” she said. “And before then there is no way you could make him cry.”

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