At the start of a two-month nationwide truce, the Houthis signed an Action Plan with the UN to end and prevent the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict; the killing and maiming of children; and attacks on schools and hospitals.

“The United Nations welcomes efforts by all parties to the conflict to end and prevent grave violations against children and this new commitment by the Houthis is a positive and encouraging step in that direction,” said UN Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict (CAAC)  Virginia Gamba.

Having signed the Action Plan in New York as a witness, Ms. Gamba welcomed this additional measure to reinforce the protection of Yemeni children who have suffered tremendously after seven years of destructive conflict.

Unpacking the plan

In signing the Action Plan, all main parties to the conflict in Yemen have committed to ending and preventing grave violations against children.

The Houthis have committed to cease recruiting and using children – including in support roles – releasing them from their ranks within six months, and providing reintegration support.

Provisions on preventing their killing and maiming and protecting health and education facilities are also included in the Action Plan.

“The most difficult part of the journey starts now,” the Special Representative said.

Humanitarian access needed

Since the beginning of the conflict in Yemen, now in its eighth year, more than 10,200 children have been killed or maimed and close to 3,500 have been verified as being used, according to CAAC.

The country also lists high in the number of incidents in which humanitarian access, including for children, has been denied.

The Special Representative called on the Houthis to facilitate access for humanitarian actors to communities affected by the conflict and to reprioritize the rights and needs of children.

“The Action Plan must be fully implemented and lead to tangible actions for the improvement of the protection of children in Yemen,” she asserted.

Negotiating peace

The Action Plan has opened the door to addressing Yemen’s urgent humanitarian and economic needs while also creating a genuine opportunity to restart Yemen’s political process.

Ms. Gamba called on all parties to the conflict to use the opportunity of the current truce to include child protection provisions in ongoing peace negotiations.

She reiterated the availability of the UN to support the Houthis and other Yemeni parties in measures reinforcing the protection of children from the ravages of hostilities.

“Ultimately, obtaining lasting peace is the best way to protect children in Yemen and should be the first objective of all parties to the conflict in the country,” the senior UN official emphasized.

 Other UN voices

The UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, David Gressly saw the plan as “a step in the right direction toward protecting Yemen’s children.”

“The UN is committed to children’s welfare and helping the Sana’a authorities and forces they control turn the plan into action starting now,” he said.

At the same time, UNICEF Representative Philippe Duamelle described the signing as “an important milestone” for Yemen’s children “whose lives have been so horrifically affected by the conflict.

“We look forward to the full implementation of the Action Plan and to continue working with all parties for the protection and wellbeing of children in Yemen,” Mr. Duamelle added.