After more than three years of escalating conflict, Yemeni people continue to bear the brunt of ongoing hostilities and severe economic decline. An alarming 22.2 million people in Yemen need some kind of humanitarian or protection assistance, an estimated 17.8 million are food insecure-8.4 million people are severely food insecure and at risk of starvation- 16 million lack access to safe water and sanitation, and 16.4 million lack access to adequate healthcare. Needs across the country have increased steadily, with 11.3 million who are in acute need – an increase of more than one million people in acute need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
The ongoing conflict continues to inflict civilian casualties and to cause extensive damage to public and private infrastructure. All parties to the conflict display a disregard for International Humanitarian Law (IHL) and International Human Rights Law and impede the principled and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance.
Conflict, displacement, and economic decline are placing immense pressure on essential basic services and the institutions that provide them, accelerating their collapse. The public budget deficit has expanded since the last quarter of 2016, resulting in irregularities and disruptions of salary payments and interruptions in the provision of operating costs for basic social facilities. Approximately 1.25 million civil servants have not received salaries or received them only intermittently since August 2016. This salary gap is estimated to affect a quarter of the population – civil servants and their families – leaving them without a regular income at a time of shortages and rising prices.
Because of collapsing public institutions, people’s access to essential services such as water, sanitation, health care and education has been further constrained. Only 50 per cent of the total health facilities are functioning, and even these face severe shortages in medicines, equipment, and staff. Collapse in the public sector is increasingly pressuring humanitarian organizations to compensate for the absence of government spending, which goes beyond their mandate and capacity to respond. For example, the recent cholera outbreak has forced humanitarian partners to cover the operating costs of hospitals and health facilities and to pay incentives to public servants in critical roles, especially health care. This sets a potentially problematic precedent by stretching scarce humanitarian resources beyond their mandate and into the public sector to compensate for the failing social services.
Just as humanitarian assistance cannot compensate for public institutions, it also cannot replace commercial imports and functioning local markets to meet the vast majority of Yemenis’ survival needs. Before the escalation of the crisis, Yemen imported 80 - 90 per cent of its staple foods and required an estimated 544,000 metric tons of imported fuel per month for transportation and powering water-systems and health facilities, among other activities. Fuel imports have fallen since the beginning of the crisis, and reached only 190,000 metric tons in September 2017. The closure of Sana’a airport by the Saudi-led Coalition and the Government of Yemen for commercial aircraft since August 2016 has further limited the ability to move goods into the country and prevented Yemenis seeking medical treatment abroad from leaving the country.
The OCHA Yemen Country Office was established in the capital, Sana’a, in 2010 in response to the humanitarian crisis brought about by widespread flooding in Yemen. In March 2015, conflict escalated between forces loyal to the internationally-recognized Government of President Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Ansar Allah movement. Given the rapidly deteriorating situation, Yemen was declared a System Wide IASC Level 3 Emergency (L3) in July 2015. This designation was reviewed in February 2017 and further extended.
OCHA's overall goal in Yemen is to ensure the delivery of effective and principled humanitarian action that meets the needs of the most vulnerable people. To achieve this, OCHA supports the Humanitarian Coordinator and humanitarian partners in operational coordination, humanitarian financing, public information, humanitarian analysis, advocacy and information management. To this end, OCHA works closely with the government and humanitarian partners at all levels to enhance the coherence and quality of humanitarian response.
OCHA’s presence has been continual, across the country, since the escalation of conflict in March 2015. Within the L3 framework, expanding operational presence has been a key priority for the Yemen operation. OCHA staff is deployed in the four Operational Hubs of Al Hudaydah, Ibb, Sa’ada and Aden, in addition to the main office in Sana’a. A supporting Yemen office operates from Amman. The Amman hub leads the areas of information management; communications and reporting; analysis; humanitarian financing; and administration. A small team based in Riyadh also supports the Yemen operation. This office focuses mainly on de-confliction support to all humanitarian operations in Yemen for overland movement, flights and shipping of humanitarian goods, as well as ensuring an information and advocacy link between the Yemen Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) and representatives of the Saudi-led Coalition and Government of Yemen officials based in Riyadh. A UN Verification Mechanism team further supports the Yemen operation from Djibouti.