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Yemen: We must act now to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe

24 Apr 2017


Yemen is experiencing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Close to 19 million people—two thirds of the population—need humanitarian assistance and protection. These people include more than 10 million extremely vulnerable Yeminis who require immediate assistance. A child under age 5 now dies every 10 minutes of preventable causes.

The crisis in Yemen is entirely man-made. The country has been grappling with the disastrous effects of a conflict that has forced millions of people to flee their homes, exacerbated chronic humanitarian needs, and killed or injured thousands.

This year, the UN and our partners launched an international appeal for US$2.1 billion to provide immediate life-saving assistance and protection to 12 million people in need. This funding would enable an effective and efficient humanitarian response in Yemen, but only 15 per cent has been received so far. This represents a catastrophic $1.8 billion funding gap.

The UN, Sweden and Switzerland will host a ministerial-level event on 25 April 2017 to address Yemen’s rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, the threat of famine and the urgent need for resources. The event aims to gather sufficient funding to end preventable and avoidable human suffering.

Funding is critical. But what if this major funding gap persists?

1. Seven million people will face starvation

Without collective and coordinated global efforts and sufficient funding, people will simply starve to death. Many more will suffer and die from disease. Children will be stunted and out of school or recruited as soldiers. Livelihoods, futures and hope will be lost. Sexual and gender-based violence will increase. Communities’ resilience will rapidly wither away. Many more people will be displaced and will continue to move in search of survival. In short, there will be more human suffering and more instability across the entire region.

2. More than 8 million people will lack access to drinking water and sanitation.

Failing water and sanitation systems will increase the risks of a public health crisis, potentially worsening recent outbreaks of cholera, dengue and scabies, and further aggravating already dire rates of malnutrition.

3. The health system will completely decline.

This will eventually lead to large increases in mortality, particularly for children under age 5 and mothers. Vaccination coverage will decline substantially across the country. Major disease outbreaks could occur, resulting in high mortality rates among malnourished children. These outbreaks could cross borders and include polio. Trauma mortality will also increase.

4. Nearly 1.2 million malnourished children could die.

Without immediate treatment, severely acutely malnourished children are 10 times likelier to die than their healthy peers. And when it doesn’t kill, malnutrition can permanently stunt children’s cognitive and physical development, robbing them of their full potential.

5. Millions of people will face grave threats to their basic rights.

Urgent support is needed to promote the protection of civilians and support survivors of violations. Since mid-March 2015, nearly 48,000 people have been killed or injured in the conflict—an average of 73 people per day. More than 8,000 cases of gender-based violence were reported between January and September 2016, and nearly 1,300 children were recruited by armed groups during that period.

6. Landmines and other explosives will threaten lives and delay assistance.

Without rapid mine action/decontamination, people will face serious threats to their lives and assets, and humanitarian workers will continue to put their lives at risk while working tirelessly to assist millions of people who desperately need help.
Photos: Giles Clarke for OCHA / C.Cans