10 things to know about the crisis in Yemen

Yemen is described as the world's worst crisis. After four years of catastrophic conflict, millions of Yemenis are just one step away from famine. Without life-saving aid in the coming months, thousands of lives are at risk due to ongoing violence and lack of access to food and medicine.

To avoid more deaths and suffering we must continue to scale up humanitarian assistance, donors should give more money, the use of blockade and restrictions on food fuel and medicines must be lifted, and we must see an end to the war.

The success or failure of the UN negotiated ceasefire and peace talks will be critical for the future of Yemen when the crisis enter its fifth year.

Video: Karl Schembri/NRC

Here are 10 things you should know about the crisis:

#1: Estimated 17,700 civilian deaths

Four years into the conflict, the scale of destruction in Yemen has reached unprecedented levels: conservative estimates show that at least 17,700 people have died as a direct result of the violence. Many more people may have died from hunger and diseases.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) recorded over 30,000 deaths in Yemen last year stemming directly from the conflict — an increase of more than 82 per cent in total reported fatalities from 2017.

#2: Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure  

Every day Yemeni civilians continue to be killed and injured in their homes, cars, buses, farms and markets.  Houses, schools, hospitals and water tanks continue to be destroyed and damaged by all sides in this conflict. With air strikes inflicting the most damage.

The Yemen Data Project has reported that while the overall number of air attacks decreased during 2018, the proportion of those attacks striking civilian targets rose, while attacks on military targets fell. They report that of the 3,362 air raids in Yemen in 2018, 420 of these air raids hit residential areas.

On average, it is estimated that 600 civilian structures, are damaged or destroyed every month.

The UN has accused all parties to the conflict of carrying out attacks on hospitals, schools and markets and from preventing aid from reaching civilians.

Yemenis also need to see an end to blockade, all ports and airports reopened, public services restored, and a nation-wide ceasefire so that talks can bring an end to the conflict. This is the only way to break the vicious cycle of human suffering.
JAN EGELAND, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council

#3: Blockade and economic crisis

Before the escalation of the war in Yemen, the country imported 90 per cent of its staple food and nearly all its fuel and medicine. After the war escalated in March 2015, border crossings, airports and harbours have been closed intermittently.

In November 2018, the Saudi and UAE led Coalition completely shut down Hodeidah port for one month further exacerbating the humanitarian crisis. Today, the Coalition continues to impose restrictions on commercial goods, fuel, food and medicine coming in to the country. These restrictions have contributed to pushing up the price of essential goods and have created a shortage in medicines and fuel coming in to the country. Sana’a airport remains closed to domestic and international flights preventing Yemenis from getting treatment for life threatening medical conditions abroad.

Staple food items are now on average 150 per cent higher than before the crisis escalated. A combination of factors such the use of blockade, restrictions on commercial goods, the collapse of the economy and public services, coupled with disruptions to livelihoods and economic activities, with 600,000 jobs lost and with teachers, health workers and civil servants in the northern parts of the country not being paid for years is deepening the needs in Yemen and pushing millions of Yemenis to the brink of famine.

#4: On the brink of famine

More than 20 million people across the country are hungry. Half of these people are suffering from extreme levels of hunger or are a just one step away from famine. This is a 14 per cent increase from last year. Two-thirds of all districts in the country are already pre-famine.

Close to 240,000 people are already living in famine like conditions in some locations.  Hunger is most severe in the areas where there is fighting.

Food insecurity is most severe in areas with active fighting and is particularly affecting IDPs and host communities, marginalized groups, fishing communities and landless wage labourers.

#5: More than 8 out of 10 need humanitarian aid

Millions of Yemenis are hungrier, sicker and more vulnerable than a year ago, pushing an ever-greater number of people in to seeking humanitarian assistance to survive.

Of the country’s 29 million inhabitants, 24 million people need some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need. Severity of needs is deepening, with the number of people in acute need is a staggering 27 per cent higher than last year.

Humanitarian aid is increasingly becoming the only lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

#6: More than 8 out of 10 live below the poverty line

The war has led to inflation, unemployment and lack of salary payments, as well as an acute shortage of fuel, food and medicine. More than 81 per cent of Yemenis now live below the poverty line, without access to clean water or adequate sanitation.

Very few Yemenis have any source of income, meaning many can’t cope with the price hikes. At least half a million civil servants have received no salaries for nearly three years. Since 2015, the economy has shrunk by half.

#7: Millions remain internally displaced

As many as 4.3 million people have been displaced during the conflict, including approximately 3.3 million people who remain displaced, and about 60 per cent have been displaced since the conflict escalated four years ago.

In 2019, displacement is anticipated to continue in proportion to the intensity of conflict, with partners projecting that between 500,000 and 1.2 million people will be newly displaced depending on conflict dynamics.

#8: No safe haven

177,000 people have crossed Yemen’s borders into neighbouring countries in search of protection since the conflict escalated.

The country’s geography and conflict dynamics restrict the options of people trying to flee abroad, people are penned in by the ocean and the desert, with only Saudi Arabia, and Oman as direct neighbours, Yemen is surrounded by extensive and highly insecure terrain to the east, its neighbouring countries are reachable only via a perilous sea journey to the south. The country’s main airport has also been closed to civilian traffic since August 2016.

#9: Collapsing public institutions and services

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.

Some 17.8 million people lack adequate access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Non-payment of teachers’ salaries in 10,000 schools since October 2016 has further restricted access to education, affecting 3.7 million children.

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.

#10: Chilling Cholera epidemic

Lack of wages and medication has led to the collapse of public health services, and few can afford private health services. Lack of vaccines and medicine has caused many, especially children, to die from easily treated diseases. A Cholera outbreak that began in 2016 is still affecting the country. More than 1.4 million people are believed to have been infected, and over 2,870 have died since April 2017 to end of 2018.