In Thailand, the saga of 12 young soccer players and their coach trapped deep inside a cave gripped the world, and their rescue was a cause for global celebration.
Juxtapose this outpouring of compassion with a catastrophe facing millions of children in Yemen, and with the debacle in the United States of migrant children being forcibly separated from their parents.
America, by comparison, does not look great.
Since 2015, Yemen has been subjected to unrelenting airstrikes by Saudi Arabia, with critical support and arms from the United States, slaughtering the civilian population. The recent siege of the port city of Hodeida has forced at least 121,000 civilians to flee.
Shireen Al-Adeimi, a Yemeni scholar and activist based in the U.S., told us: “Any kind of disruption to the aid that’s coming in through the port of Hodeida means the starvation of millions of Yemenis. More than 8 million are on the verge of starvation, and another 22 million people, 80 percent of the population, are relying on humanitarian aid that is coming in through this port.”
Since the war in Yemen began, according to UNICEF, more than half of the country’s health facilities have closed or been destroyed; 1,500 schools have been damaged; and at least 2,200 children have been killed.
“These are only numbers we have been able to verify. The actual figures could be even higher,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said last week in Geneva after returning from a trip to Yemen. “There is no justification for this carnage.”
At least 1 million children are suffering from severe malnutrition in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East, heightening susceptibility to the world’s largest cholera epidemic. It has swept their nation, infecting more than 1 million Yemenis. Images of these skeletal children, in some cases just hours before death, are devastating.
Meanwhile, in the United States, more than 3,000 children remain separated from their parents in the wake of President Donald Trump’s disastrous “zero tolerance” immigration policy.
A federal judge ordered the Trump administration to reunite the families. But Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar, who earlier claimed that he could locate the children and their parents with mere “keystrokes,” missed the judge’s first deadline, on July 10, to reunite all 102 children under the age of 5 with their parents.
This does not bode well for the release of all 3,000 children by the judge’s deadline of July 26.
As that first July 10 deadline loomed, Azar actually attempted to describe his agency’s failure to reunite the children as a success, telling CNN, “It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally.”
Parroting Trump’s infamous 2015 campaign launch speech, in which he denigrated Mexicans as “rapists and murderers,” Azar told CNN that some of the parents of the separated children were “murderers, kidnappers, rapists.”
In fact, many of these people fled to the United States from Central America to avoid just such violence. Our nation’s self-proclaimed “law and order” president violates the law, which guarantees a hearing to those seeking asylum.
On Monday, the United Nation’s Security Council met to debate a resolution regarding the treatment of children during an armed conflict. The resolution passed unanimously. American U.N. Ambassador Nimrata “Nikki” Haley, a daughter of immigrants, said: “The Security Council must hold governments accountable for how they treat children both during and after active conflicts. They cannot neglect the unseen damage done to children’s hearts and minds.”
But if Haley and the Trump administration care about children’s “hearts and minds,” they could show it by immediately reuniting the thousands of children they have taken from their parents, and ensure those families receive due process.
They also should stop backing the Saudi-led bombing of Yemen, which is killing thousands of children.
As it happens, several of the young soccer players rescued in Thailand are stateless refugees, having fled violence and persecution in neighboring Burma. Let the migrant children locked up by Trump here in the United States and the children of Yemen feel a similar outpouring of kindness, and an equal global effort to deliver them to safety.
Amy Goodman is the host of “Democracy Now!” a daily international TV/radio news hour airing on more than 1,300 stations. She and Denis Moynihan, special projects coordinator for “Democracy Now!” are co-authors of “The Silenced Majority.”
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