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Yemen: The time to act is now

19 Feb 2019


Years of conflict, economic decline and institutional collapse have devastated Yemen. The human impact of the conflict can hardly be overstated.

At last year’s Pledging Conference, donors’ extraordinary generosity ensured that over US$2 billion would go and fund the humanitarian response. “This pledging conference represents a remarkable success of international solidarity to the people of Yemen,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres at the event.

But this year, funding is even more urgently needed as humanitarian partners will require US$4.2 billion to double up their efforts and reach 50 per cent more people than in 2018. For the people of Yemen, these funds will make the difference between life and death.

Massive humanitarian needs

According to the 2019 Humanitarian Response Plan launched today, 24.1 million people – close to 80 per cent of the population – need assistance and protection. 14.3 million of them are in acute need. Famine is threatening hundreds of thousands of lives and humanitarian aid is increasingly becoming the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

Access to income and basic services have been decimated by the complete breakdown of the national economy, leaving millions unable to afford food, medicine, clear water and other essentials.

Conflict remains the main driver as the worst hunger is concentrated in areas that saw the fiercest conflict last year. But despite the UN’s repeated call on all parties to facilitate access for humanitarians to reach people in need throughout Yemen, access is still elusive. The conflict particularly impacts women and children putting them at higher risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

The crisis in numbers

Two-thirds of the country’s district are already pre-famine. 20 million people are food insecure, including nearly 10 million who are suffering from extreme levels of hunger and are barely surviving.

More than 600,000 people have been displaced in the last year alone. Nearly 76 per cent of them are women and children. Today there are a total 3.3 million internally displaced people who have nothing to go back to.

Since 2015, the economy has shrunk by half, and more than 80 per cent of Yemenis now live below the poverty line. If current trends continue, the total number of people facing pre-famine conditions could rise to 14 million – or half the country’s population.

With so many men fighting in this conflict, wounded, dead or missing, nearly one in five households is headed by women below the age of 18.

Major achievements thanks to an operation of unprecedented magnitude

A massive logistic effort continues to ensure a lifeline to millions of Yemenis. And the magnitude of the relief operation is striking.

About 8 million people across the country receive direct assistance from the UN and partners every month. In 2018, all 333 districts in the country have been reached with humanitarian assistance.

254 humanitarian partners are engaged in the response, despite the enormous security challenges.

In December, the World Food Programme reached more than 10 million people – a record achievement.

Timely interventions prevented further suffering and catastrophe including rolling back deadly disease outbreaks such as cholera.

Why another Pledging Conference?

Managing such an operation of this scale requires care to ensure that aid is reaching the people who need it, and massive funding to be able to sustain and boost such efforts.

On 26 February, the United Nations and the Governments of Sweden and Switzerland will convene the third High-Level Pledging Event for the Humanitarian Crisis in Yemen. The event will aim to garner support for the humanitarian response in Yemen and alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people.

Because this year humanitarian partners are scaling up their operations to reach 12 million people with emergency food assistance - a 50 per cent increase over 2018 targets - more funds are urgently needed.

Funding is also needed to provide people with shelter, medicine, clean water and to give women the necessary resources to support their families to lessen the risk of sexual and gender-based violence.

Without the necessary funds, humanitarian partners won’t be able to sustain their operations at a time when humanitarian aid is the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis.