Despite the signing of the Gulf Cooperation Initiative in November 2011 and the election of a new transitional President in February 2012, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen continued to deteriorate in 2012. At the beginning of 2012, the Comprehensive Food Security Survey, conducted in November and December 2011, revealed that severe food insecurity had doubled over the previous two years and confirmed alarming rates of acute malnutrition among children under age 5. The study also showed that food insecurity and malnutrition were prevalent across the country, and not just in the conflict-affected areas where humanitarian partners were mostly present. These findings led to a significant scale up and geographic expansion of humanitarian operations, particularly in the food, nutrition, WASH and health sectors. As a result of the breakdown in health services, particularly regarding immunizations, a measles outbreak in early 2012 claimed more than 170 lives, highlighting the need for increased support for the health sector.
Another key development took place in May 2012 when the Government launched a month-long offensive against the Ansar Al-Sharia-controlled Abyan Governorate, which led to new displacement and large-scale destruction. As the Government regained control of the Governorate, OCHA coordinated a multi-sector rapid initial assessment, revealing significant needs in protection, shelter, non-food items, food security/nutrition, health, education, and water and sanitation. A six-month response plan was developed on the basis of these findings. In the following months, OCHA supported the Government and agencies, particularly UNHCR, in facilitating the return of displaced people to Abyan. This took place at an unexpected rate and pace.
The beginning of the political transition process did not herald an improvement in humanitarian needs or re-establishment of Government services. However, it did lead to improved stability in many areas and increased Government support for humanitarian action. OCHA supported the HC in advocating with the Government to speed up visa processing and INGO registration. This led to a significant increase in the presence of international humanitarian actors, strengthening the implementation capacity across sectors and regions. As a result, the number of CAP participants increased from 62 in the 2012 YHRP to 89 in the 2013 YHRP.
OCHA also stepped up negotiations with national and local authorities and non-state actors to improve humanitarian access, both in conflict-affected areas, such as Abyan and Sa’ada, and in areas previously without significant humanitarian presence, such as Hadramout and Hudaydah. OCHA continued and strengthened its outreach to the Gulf countries in their capacity as potential donors, and to seek coordination with Gulf-based NGOs that have become increasingly active in the humanitarian response in Yemen. Despite several meetings and missions, the Gulf countries continue to primarily provide bilateral assistance to Yemen, and contributions to the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan (YHRP) are minimal. However, as a result of OCHA Yemen outreach, two Gulf-based NGOs joined the 2013 YHRP. OCHA hopes to strengthen coordination with other key actors in the region.
OCHA worked with the Government in preparing the humanitarian pillar of its transition plan, which now calls for implementation of the YHRP. OCHA mobilized US$23.5 million through two CERF rapid response grants in 2012: one grant enabled measles vaccination for 94 per cent of children aged between 6 months and 10 years, and the other kick-started implementation of the Abyan and South Response Plan. These developments helped with the implementation of the 2012 YHRP, but other factors, including funding, capacity and access, constituted major challenges. By the end of the year, the 2012 YHRP was only 58 per cent funded. Early recovery, protection, education and health activities were significantly underfunded.
Due to a security incident at the beginning of the year, unstable staffing levels affected the office’s capacity in 2012. OCHA’s internal short-term surge mechanisms ensured operational continuity while recruitment was ongoing for vacated posts and for newly created posts in connection with an office expansion. By the end of 2012, OCHA Yemen was almost fully staffed, more than doubling the staffing level since the beginning of the year. Despite progress, access remained a challenge. Staff mobility was limited due to general insecurity, explosive remnants of war and increased kidnapping risks. Despite some success in facilitating an agreement between the de facto authorities and humanitarian partners on aid delivery in Sa’ada, a multi-sector assessment has still not been feasible in Sa’ada.