SANAA, Feb. 6 (Xinhua) -- The Yemeni children are surrounded by big problems including absence of state supervision, increasing rate of child labor, illegal immigration, children smuggling and child recruitment, as the frequent strikes of the juveniles triggered some activists and observers to say that the children's situation in Yemen is "catastrophic."
Dozens of juveniles have staged a hunger strike inside the central prison in Yemen's capital Sanaa for about a week to protest against a death sentence handed down recently against one of them.
They have vowed to continue their strike until the government meets their demand, including canceling the death sentence against Nadim Al-Azazi, who was imprisoned on murder charges while he was 15 years old.
"We are also protesting against our conditions here, the cells and cleanliness, preventing us from meeting or talking to families and maltreatment especially during interrogations," said one of the striking juveniles, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
"Everything related to protecting the child's rights here needs to be reconsidered and improved," Ahmed Al-Qurashi, chairman of the Yemeni-based SEYAJ Organization for Childhood Protection, told Xinhua.
"The laws, prisons, organizations and solutions don't live up to the requirements of better childhood in the country," Said Qurashi, who is a field expert on child rights and issues, he explained.
"Solutions by the government and Civil Society Organizations ( CSOs) are unhelpful and most of CSOs are illegal and are just serving political agenda, not the children's interest," he added.
He pointed out that the situation of juvenile prisoners in the capital Sanaa is not good.
"They are put together with adult inmates. Also, some may think the society has not treated them well and when they leave the cell, they will take revenge," he reiterated.
However, government officials said the authorities comply with the law which bans maltreatment of imprisoned juveniles or sentencing them while they are below 15 years old.
Nabil Abdu, a lawyer at the state juvenile court, said Yemen has never ordered to execute a juvenile through its modern history.
"All I am sure of is that if there was a death sentence, it would be handed down to an adult not a juvenile," he said.
The SEYAJ Organization for Childhood Protection is now seeking to meet the father of Al-Azazi to appeal against the preliminary verdict against his son, according to officials of the organization.
Official studies also found in 2010 that there were about 1.6 million children aged between 5 and 17 years involved in the labor market, said Mona Salem, director of the child labor control unit at the ministry of labor and social affairs.
The uprising in 2011 deepened the country's woes with poverty and unemployment increasing to record rates.
"Sometimes children deviate and learn bad behaviors when staying a long time away from their families and this is not a good societal phenomenon," Salem said, noting that children face many difficulties at workplaces including psychological and physical abuse.
"The government in coordination with international organizations including the International Labor Organization has exerted utmost efforts to combat child labor in Yemen. Still, more efforts are needed to be done concertedly," she added.
As for illegal immigration, many Yemeni children infiltrate into Saudi Arabia per year, but experts including Al-Qurashi argue they probably go there for work because of extreme poverty but not as smuggled.
He said the worst problem is the recruitment of children in conflicts by tribes, army leaders and illegal groups such as al- Qaida and Jihadists.
"This phenomenon, amid the absence of a law to ban recruiting children in very clear texts, is threatening the national and regional security," he said.
There are no studies on child recruitment or the exact numbers of the children recruited, but expectations based on observation of the situation suggest that more than 40 percent of the fighters in all conflicts in Yemen are under 18 years old, he continued.
"It is a real tragedy," he concluded.