‘A dark day in a bleak year for children’: UNICEF condemns attack on schoolchildren in Yemen

Two displaced girls stand in front of the classroom where their family has been living in Aden, Yemen (September 2012). Photo: UNHCR/P. Rubio Larrauri

Two displaced girls stand in front of the classroom where their family has been living in Aden, Yemen (September 2012). Photo: UNHCR/P. Rubio Larrauri

Yemen, 16 December 2014 – The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has deplored the killing of at least 15 school girls in a car bombing in Yemen adding to the grim toll of what it described as “a dark day in the closing weeks of a bleak year” for children around the world.

According to media reports, a school bus carrying the 15 school girls was hit by a car bomb as it passed a checkpoint in the Yemeni province of Al Bayda, south of the country’s capital of Sana’a. The deaths come on a day already marked the mass killing of children in a school in Peshawar, Pakistan where 132 children were murdered by Taliban militants earlier this morning.

“There can be no justification for such unspeakable savagery against children as they go about the simple act of going to school, or against teachers as they work to educate them,” UNICEF declared in a statement. “Each life taken in Peshawar and Al Bayda is a future lost forever.”

The UN agency pointed out that in 2014 schools had repeatedly become the targets of violence with students, teachers, and school staff caught in the crosshairs and “paying a terrible price.” In addition, the statement said, children had been affected as never before in recent memory by violence and extreme hatred, with some 230 million children living in countries affected by conflict.

Just last week, UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, lamented that 2014 had been “a devastating year” for the world’s children and that protracted crises in countries like Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Nigeria, Somalia, Sudan, Pakistan, and Yemen, continued to claim “even more young lives and futures” without any indication of stopping.

“These tragedies underscore why 2015 must be the year when protecting our children against violence of every kind, whether in conflict or in peace, whether in school or at home, and in every circumstance, becomes a global priority,” the statement concluded.