Almost six years on from the escalation of conflict in March 2015, Yemen is in the midst of the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. There have been more than 12,000 civilian deaths due to airstrikes, fighting and indiscriminate shelling. More than 3.65 million people have been forced to flee their homes, and 24.3 million people – 80% of the Yemeni population – are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Yemen’s economy has been shattered by the ongoing conflict, and the COVID-19 pandemic has further worsened the situation. The Yemeni Riyal depreciated by approximately 12% in the first five months of 2020 alone. It continues to depreciate dramatically, particularly in the south of the country. A study undertaken for UNDP in 2019 estimated that $89bn had been lost in economic output as a result of the war, warning that by 2022 this could rise to $181bn if the conflict continues. Remittances, which made up 13% of the country’s GDP in 2019, have seen a dramatic decline related to the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Yemenis abroad.
In this context, humanitarian aid is a lifeline for millions of people in Yemen whose livelihoods have been destroyed. In 2018, an injection of humanitarian assistance is widely credited with having averted widespread famine in Yemen. However, with food insecurity on the rise, and INGOs and UN agencies once again warning of the risk of famine, the consequences of acting too late could be devastating.
It is clear that aid alone cannot put Yemen back on its feet. What is needed above all is a nationwide ceasefire, in order to allow for the resumption of negotiations towards an inclusive political settlement. However, while conflict continues, the aid provided by international donors continues to be essential for saving lives and delivering humanitarian assistance on the ground.