Skip to main content

You are here

Crisis Overview

Four years of relentless conflict in Yemen have devastated the lives of millions of people. Facing a protection and humanitarian crisis engulfing a large part of its population, Yemen has become the largest humanitarian crisis in the world. An alarming 24.1 million people – more than two thirds of the population - need some kind of humanitarian or protection support. Some 14.3 million are in acute need of assistance. This means they need aid to sustain their lives. This man-made disaster has been brutal on civilians. Currently, more than 20 million people are food insecure while a staggering 7.4 million people do not know where their next meal is coming from and are at risk of famine. An estimated 4.3 million people have fled their homes since the start of the conflict, including approximately 3.3 million people who remain displaced and 1 million returnees. Public services have broken down, only 51 per cent of health centres remain fully functional and medicine and equipment are limited. Access to safe water has become a major challenge and the lack of proper sanitation has increased the risk of communicable diseases.

Yemen was already a protracted crisis characterized by widespread poverty, conflict, poor governance and weak rule of law, including widely reported human rights violations. Today, the economy is near collapse, public and private services have all but disappeared, and Yemenis have lost most of their livelihoods and depleted most of their saving. Deliberate military tactics to shred the economy have moved an already weak and impoverished country towards social, economic, and institutional collapse. The people of Yemen have suffered long enough and no humanitarian response can meet the increasing needs that the war is causing. Only peace can end the suffering. The time has come for the warring parties to place the very people they claim to be fighting for at the center of their concerns and end the fighting.

Without urgent action, the situation will worsen

The humanitarian situation is likely to deteriorate further in the months ahead. Without urgent action – including full funding for the Humanitarian Response Plan, steps by parties to end the war and to facilitate the resumption of commercial food and other imports, and full access to all people in need – the crisis will worsen. It is absolutely essential that the parties to the conflict respect International Humanitarian Law, allow the importation of food, medical supplies and other necessary goods into Yemen, and guarantee unhindered movement of humanitarian actors to reach those in need of assistance. Access is the key to the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance to people in need across Yemen. Despite the very challenging operational environment in Yemen, humanitarian partners have demonstrated a strong and growing capacity to deliver with121 humanitarian partners working across Yemen. In 2018, these partners have reached around 8 million people with some form of humanitarian assistance every month in all 22 of Yemen’s governorates.

Food insecurity rates soar

The ongoing conflict is the major driver of food insecurity in Yemen. It has destroyed livelihoods, limited income opportunities and reduced families’ ability to purchase food. The cost of a food basket increased 60 per cent last year and average food prices are now nearly 150 per cent higher than before the conflict. Fuel prices rose by 200 percent in 2018 compared to pre-crisis prices, impacting agriculture, water supply, transport, electricity, health and sanitation services. Food security has deteriorated alarmingly since the conflict escalated in 2015. Slightly more than 20 million Yemenis (67 per cent of the population) are food insecure – an unprecedented situation and a 13 per cent increase from last year. Of these people, 9.6 million are one step away from famine (IPC Phase 4 Emergency) – a 14 per cent increase since last year and almost twice the figure before the escalation of the conflict. For the first time ever, assessments have confirmed that close to a quarter of a million people (238,000 individuals) are facing catastrophic levels of hunger (IPC Phase 5 Catastrophe) and are barely surviving. Across the country, 190 of 333 districts are facing emergency conditions (IPC Phase 4), which means that nearly two thirds of all districts in the country are pre-famine.

Increasing need for water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance

More than half of the population in Yemen (17.8 million people) require assistance to access safe drinking water and sanitation, including 12.6 million people who are in acute need.
Soaring prices and reduced purchasing power have created economic barriers to access safe water and personal hygiene items. Such critical water and sanitation conditions are aggravating the risk of cholera, malnutrition and other diseases.

Nearly half of all health facilities are non-functional

Approximately 19.7 million people need health assistance in Yemen – an increase of 3.1 million people in the last year – with 14 million people in acute need. Assessments indicate that 203 of Yemen’s 33 districts face levels of severe need due to poor access to health services, displacement and deteriorating socio-economic conditions. Specific vulnerable groups include children, women, girls, elderly, IDPs and marginalized people. The conflict has devastated the health care system, with 49 per cent of health facilities are not functioning or only partially functioning due to staff shortages, lack of supplies, inability to meet operational costs or limited access. Fewer specialized staff are working in district and tertiary hospitals: 53 per cent of health facilities lack general practitioners, and 45 per cent of functional hospitals lack specialists. There are ten health workers per 10,000 people in Yemen – less than half the WHO minimum benchmark. Most of the equipment in hospitals is non-functioning or obsolete, and many health personnel have not received regular salaries for two years.

A malnutrition crisis of immense proportions

An estimated 7.4 million people require services to treat or prevent malnutrition, including 4.4 million who are in acute need. This includes 3.2 million people who require treatment for acute malnutrition: 2 million children under 5 and 1.14 million pregnant or lactating women. Five governorates have acute malnutrition rates that exceed the 15 per cent WHO emergency threshold: Al Hudaydah, Lahj, Taizz, Aden and Hadramaut. In 2019, humanitarian partners project that acute malnutrition among children under age 5 will increase slightly, to just over 2 million children, including nearly 360,000 severe acute malnutrition cases. Acute malnutrition among pregnant or lactating women is also expected to increase slightly, from 1.12 million women to 1.14 million.

Ongoing displacement and returns fuelling widespread shelter needs

Approximately 6.7 million people need emergency shelter or essential household items, including IDPs, host communities and returnees. Ongoing conflict-related displacements, as well as initial returns to some areas, are driving these needs. An estimated 4.3 million people have fled their homes in search of safety and security. About 3.3 million people remain internally displaced and around one million have returned to their home districts, but many have found their homes destroyed and lack of opportunities to rebuild their lives; they still require support to ensure their safety and re-establish their livelihoods.

Millions of children out of school and scores of teachers unpaid

About two million children are out of school, with girls more likely to lose out on education, with 36 per cent out of school compared to 24 per cent of boys. An estimated 2000 schools are currently unfit for use due to conflict-related damage, hosting of IDPs or occupation by armed groups. The number of children who need education assistance is increasing year-on-year, rising from 2.3 million in 2017 to 4.7 million in 2019. Access to education for 3.7 million children in 11 northern governorates is at stake due to non-payment of salaries for more than two years, which is having a serious impact on schools, teacher performance and access to education.

Livelihoods and community resilience devastated as public sector grounds to a halt

The protracted conflict has destroyed livelihoods, limited income opportunities and reduced families’ ability to purchase food and other basic necessities. The Yemeni economy has contracted by about 50 per cent since conflict escalated in March 2015. Employment and income opportunities have significantly diminished. Exchange rate volatility – including unprecedented depreciation of the Yemeni Rial (YER) between August and October 2018 – further undermined households’ purchasing power. Persistent price increases have forced hundreds of thousands of families out of local markets, unable to purchase the basic necessities required to survive. The public budget deficit since late 2016 has disrupted basic social services and payment of public sector salaries. As a result, people’s access to essential services such as water, sanitation, health care, education, and agriculture and veterinary services has been further constrained. This has increased the pressure on humanitarian partners to fill gabs in the public sector.