The children of Yemen: Inside Sanaa orphanage that is braving nearby air strikes

As the war in Yemen rages on, civilians continue to suffer through a constant state of fear and trauma. Children have born the brunt of the country's collapse, and for those at al-Shawkani Foundation for Orphan Care, their only dream is to survive. Reuters photographer Khaled Abdullah has documented the lives of these orphans, who have nowhere else to go.

Boys play in an abandoned car in the yardKhaled Abdullah/Reuters

Located near the al-Nahdain mountain, widely believed to be an arms depot that has been repeatedly bombarded by Saudi-led coalition's fighter jets, the orphanage once housed around 350 orphans before the conflict began. Now only around one-third remain after most left for the relative safety of living with family members in the countryside, as bombardment of the explosive-laden peak send huge mushroom clouds erupting into Sanaa's skies.

Boys study in a dormitoryKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
A boy studies in a dormitoryKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Boys study in their dormitoryKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
A boy sleepsKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Girls tidy their bedsKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Boys sit on their bedsKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Girls brush their teeth in the morningKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Girls walk down the stairsKhaled Abdullah/Reuters

As the war rages on, the children are living in constant fear "We were scared, and every time we hear the plane's noise, they (orphanage staff) would rush us quickly to the basement fearing for our safety," Mousa Saleh Munassar, 14, told Reuters. "Many of my friends have left the orphanage and returned to their relatives," he added. "I expect strikes nearby at any time." Mousa, once dreamt of becoming a doctor, but describes the only dream he and his friends now share: "We want the war to calm down for us to see security and stability come back."


The two year conflict has devastated the economy and unleashed a humanitarian crisis, depleting savings and public resources. Largely stalemated in nationwide battlefronts, the war has plunged millions into poverty, displaced millions of others and killed more than 10,000 people.

Boys take part in a morning drillKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Twin brothers attend a class at the orphanage schoolKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Girls perform dawn prayersKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Boys attend a class at the orphanage schoolKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
A paper with a tank drawn on it, lies on a tableKhaled Abdullah/Reuters

Orphanage director Muhammad al-Qadhi says it relies on the generosity of private donors and charity groups. "We are going through a pressing need for aid for these orphans amid the scarcity of resources that used to provide for them due to the ongoing war," he explained to Reuters.

Yemen's conflict pits the Iran-allied Houthi movement and elements of the military against the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Saudi-led air strikes have repeatedly hit hospitals, homes and markets, but the kingdom denies targeting civilians. Largely stalemated in nationwide battlefronts, the war has plunged millions into poverty, displaced millions of others and killed more than 10,000 people.

Cooks prepare a meal in the kitchenKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Boys play in the orphanage entranceKhaled Abdullah/Reuters

According to UNICEF, one child dies in Yemen every ten minutes from preventable diseases including malnutrition, respiratory infections and diarrhoea. Nine-year-old Abdulaziz Badr al-Faisari of the orphanage said he and his fellow orphans were terrified when bombs shake the whole building, but appeared resigned to his fate. "We have had nowhere to flee."

A boy plays on a swing as others watch in the yardKhaled Abdullah/Reuters
Boys play in the yardKhaled Abdullah/Reuters

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