The humanitarian situation in Yemen continues to deteriorate almost one and a half years after the escalation of conflict in March 2015.The escalation amplified an already existing protracted crisis, which was characterised by widespread poverty, conflict, poor governance and weak rule of law, including widely reported human rights violations.
Yemen was already the poorest county in the Middle East when the crisis escalated. Men, women, and children were already facing a humanitarian crisis, stemmed from years of poverty, poor governance, and instability, including widespread violations of human rights. The situation has only worsened in the past year and the speed and scale of the deterioration is alarming. The economy is near collapse, public and private services have all but disappeared, and Yemenis have lost most of their livelihoods and have depleted most of their saving. Yemen has turned into a protection crisis where the average citizen is facing tremendous hardships and the most vulnerable populations are struggling simply to survive.
More than 19 months since conflict escalated have left an estimated 18.8 million people in need some kind of assistance or protection in order to meet their basic needs, including 10.3 million who are in acute need. This represents an increase of almost 20 per cent since late 2014 and is driven by increases across key sectors. The 18.8 million people in need estimation is lower than the 21.2 million cited for 2016. These changes do not reflect an improvement in the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Yemen, but rather a further tightening around priorities based on a rigorous analysis of evidence.
Food security and agriculture
An estimated 14 million people are currently food insecure, including 7 million people who do not know where their next meal will come from. This represents a 33 per cent increase since late 2014. Agricultural production, employing more than half of the population, has also drastically declined due to insecurity, high costs, and sporadic availability of agricultural inputs. The fishery sector has also been heavily impacted with a near 50 per cent reduction in the number of fishermen due to the impact of the crisis.
Water, sanitation, and hygiene
An estimated 14.4 million people require assistance to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation, including 8.2 million who are in acute need. This represents an increase of 8 per cent since late 2014, and the severity of needs has intensified.
An estimated 14.8 million people lack access to basic healthcare, including 8.8 million living in severely under-served areas. Medical materials are in chronically short supply, and only 45 per cent of health facilities are functioning. As of October 2016, at least 274 health facilities had been damaged or destroyed in the conflict, 13 health workers had been killed and 31 injured.
About 3.3 million children and pregnant or lactating women are acutely malnourished, including 462,000 children under 5 suffering from severe acute malnutrition. This represents a 63 per cent increase since late 2015 and threatens the lives and life-long prospects of those affected.
Shelter and essential items
An estimated 4.5 million people need emergency shelter or essential household items, including IDPs, host communities and initial returnees. Ongoing conflict-related displacements, as well as initial returns to some areas, are driving these needs.
About 11.3 million people need assistance to protect their safety, dignity or basic rights, including 2.9 million people living in acutely affected areas. Vulnerable people require legal, psychosocial and other services, including child protection and gender-based violence support.
About 2 million school-age children are out of school and need support to fulfil their right to education. More than 1,600 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage, hosting of IDPs, or occupation by armed groups.
Livelihoods and community resilience
An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services. Communities require support to promote resilience, including clearance of landmines and other explosives in up to 15 governorates.
Many of the displaced continue to live with host families, placing additional strain on scarce resources, or renting shelter, which becomes challenging as rental prices increase, displacement becomes protracted, and savings depleted. The escalation of the conflict has exacerbated protection challenges for refugees and asylum seekers, including increasing arbitrary arrest and detention, trafficking and smuggling, as well as military recruitment and participation in hostilities. Many refugees have been struggling with depleted financial means and reduced coping mechanism at their disposal. A number of refugees have been compelled to relocate to rural areas for security reasons.
New arrivals continue to make the perilous journey often on overcrowded smugglers’ boats risking their lives at sea. They land dehydrated, in shock and in need of basic assistance, and further face the risk of abduction, exploitation and insecurity within Yemen or of being transported onward through smuggling and human trafficking networks.
The humanitarian community has developed a national strategy for IDPs and is now developing regional action plans to attend to their specific needs as well as those of the host communities sheltering them.
The conduct of the conflict has been brutal on civilians with all parties failing to take adequate steps to protect civilians or fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law. Air strikes hit marketplaces, hospitals and residential areas and indiscriminate shelling was reported in several densely populated areas. As of 1 November, health facilities reported more than 7000 people killed and more than 43,000 injured since mid-March 2015, including more than 3200 children killed or injured.
More than 600 health facilities and 1,600 schools remained closed due to conflict-related damages. A fivefold increase in the recruitment of child soldiers has been documented along with a six-fold increase in the number of children killed or maimed in 2015 as compared to 2014. Close to 2 million children lack education opportunities and are now out of school, further jeopardizing the future of this generation. The humanitarian community echoes the UN Secretary General in calling on regional and international donors to demand parties to the conflict to take specific mitigation actions to protect children in Yemen by upholding their responsibilities under international law.
The ongoing conflict has also significantly affected Yemen’s economy. According to the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the GDP contracted nearly 35 per cent in 2015. The Government was only able to pay some salaries, with no resources available for supplies or maintenance of infrastructure. This has severely jeopardised the ability of public institutions to deliver basic services. Restrictions on imports of key commodities such as food, medicines, and fuel have worsened humanitarian needs as Yemen is dependent on imports, including for more than 90 per cent of staple foods, 90 per cent of medicines and pharmaceutical products, and nearly all its fuel. Fuel imports are essential to power water pumps, run generators in hospitals and water stations, and for other critical civilian infrastructure.
In 2016 humanitarian partners are targeting some 12.6 million people for life-saving humanitarian assistance across Yemen in 2016, with the most critical needs being health, food and nutrition, and protection of civilians. Despite access and security challenges, over 100 international humanitarian partners are present and, alongside national partners, attending to needs in all 22 governorates. Over 4.6 million people have been reached by national and international humanitarians with some form of humanitarian and protection assistance across the country’s 22 governorates since January 2016. From January to April 2016, 3.5 million people were reached with health assistance, 250,000 people with nutrition support; over 270,000 with shelter and non-food items; more than 360,000 with education support, over 100,000 migrants and refugees were assisted, and an average of 4.5 million people received regular emergency food assistance per month.
Only a political solution will end the suffering of the Yemeni people.But, until a political solution is reached, humanitarian action can only help alleviate suffering in a way that is not sustainable. Overshadowed by other crises in the region, the emergency in Yemen is not receiving the attention and support it requires.
In 2016, humanitarian partners have appealed for US$1.6 billion to reach 12.6 million people, but by end of November 2016, only 50 per cent of funding had been received.
Without the support of the international community, 26 million people will suffer, increased region instability will ensue, and the political and financial cost to the international and regional community will far outweigh today’s humanitarian cost.