Why Yemeni children are raising funds for the UN


The United Nations placed a Saudi Arabia-led military coalition on a blacklist for nations with the worst track records of respecting children’s rights last week, accusing the coalition of being responsible for the death of thousands of children in Yemen. But after threats from Saudi Arabia to withdraw funding, the UN decided Thursday to remove the coalition from the blacklist. To protest against this backtracking, Yemeni children started a campaign to raise money… for the UN.

The mayor of Sanaa, Yemen’s capital and largest city, organised a sit-in in front of the local UN office on June 12, and dozens of children participated. In photos posted on Twitter, children can be seen leaving coins on a UN flag in a symbolic gesture. Internet users who posted the photos described it as “a fundraising campaign to help the UN do its job without financial pressure from Saudi Arabia".

Photo of the sit-in in front of the UN office in Sanaa, published on Twitter.

Photo of the sit-in in front of the UN office in Sanaa, published on Twitter.

Translation: “My son Haydar and my daughter donated 10 rials. The UN doesn’t deserve that much.”

In its “blacklist”, which is actually an annual report on children and armed conflicts, released in April 2016, the UN accused Saudi Arabia of being responsible for 60% of the child casualties in Yemen in 2015, which totalled 785 children killed and 1,185 injured. To put pressure on the UN, Riyadh threatened to cut financing to several programs and agencies at the organisation, especially the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees.

“The decision to remove the coalition from the blacklist was one of the most painful and difficult that I’ve ever taken,” said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon during a press conference on June 9. “It is unacceptable for member states to exercise unjustified pressure,” he added.