As It Happens

Explosion near 2 schools in Yemen killed 14 children, UNICEF says

It's just the latest incident in the war-torn country that underlines how not even schools are safe.

UNICEF representative Sara Beysolow Nyanti says families are scared to send their children to school

The belongings of Yemeni students are scattered on a staircase at a school in the capital Sanaa, following an explosion that occurred near the school on Sunday. (Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images)
Listen6:20

Story transcript

Students were still in class. It was almost lunch time. Then the blast hit.

The explosion Sunday at a warehouse near two schools in Sanaa, Yemen, killed 14 young students, says UNICEF. The oldest was about nine years old.

It's just the latest incident in the war-torn country that underlines how not even schools are safe.

"Those are children whose lives were cut short," Sara Beysolow Nyanti, UNICEF's country representative in Yemen, told As It Happens host Carol Off.

"Children who didn't have an opportunity to reach their fullest development potential. Children whose bright future, children whose dreams for Yemen, were literally just cut short."

Houthi rebels, who gained control of Sanaa in 2014, said on Sunday that the Saudi-led coalition had targeted the warehouse with an airstrike.

The coalition has denied carrying out any strikes in the area.

The state-run news agency in Aden, aligned with the internationally-recognized government, said the rebels had stored weapons at the warehouse.

Nyanti says the cause of the blast is still unclear. But she has been meeting with some of the families who live nearby and who were injured.

"It was catastrophic because it destroyed everything that they had and it destroyed really their hopes, in terms of their future for living in that area," Nyanti said.

"They are traumatized and they are only an example of so many families that were affected."

In terms of total injuries, Nyanti says the United Nations humanitarian co-ordinator is reporting that over 100 people were affected.

Families in the area are on edge, she said. 

"As it stands today, many people didn't send their children to school," Nyanti said.

"This is where the children go to find comfort. They go to find a safe space. And to have children go to school and suffer this kind of an attack is just unforgivable. It is just atrocious."

The Saudi-led coalition has been fighting the Houthis since 2015 in a conflict that has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen, the Arab world's poorest country, to the brink of famine.

"It's difficult right now for a child to feel as if they have a chance of surviving Yemen," Nyanti said.

"When things like this happen, and they happen repeatedly, definitely it undermines the efforts that we're putting in place to restore the education sector."

Written by John McGill with files from Kate Swoger and The Associated Press. Interview with Sara Beysolow Nyanti produced by Kate Swoger.

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