Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis globally. Protracted armed conflict, widespread economic collapse and a breakdown in national systems and services has left 80 per cent of the total population, including 12.4 million children, in need of humanitarian assistance. The protracted situation risks bringing Yemen to the brink of famine; at least 325,000 children are severely malnourished and 2 million are moderately malnourished. 2 The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained the fragile health system and exacerbated the underlying protection and gender-related vulnerabilities of children, adolescents and women.
UNICEF’s humanitarian strategy has a dual focus on direct life-saving assistance and system strengthening, in line with efforts to strengthen the linkages between humanitarian action and development programming. The COVID-19 response involves protecting children and their families from exposure to the virus, minimizing mortality and supporting the continuity of essential services.
Amidst an already constrained funding landscape, UNICEF requires US$576.9 million to respond to the humanitarian situation in Yemen in 2021. Over 70 per cent of funding requirements are for water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), health and nutrition.
HUMANITARIAN SITUATION AND NEEDS
More than five years since the conflict began, Yemen remains the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with 24.3 million people – 80 per cent of the total population – in need of humanitarian assistance.The conflict has left 3.6 million people, including 2 million children, internally displaced, and 422,000 people are now migrants and asylum seekers.
Humanitarian access in Yemen remains constrained due to the escalation of the armed conflict and increasing bureaucratic impediments that are hampering the work of UNICEF and partners across the country. In 2020, fighting erupted along new front-lines, bringing the number of active front-lines to 43. Hostilities are most intense in Marib governorate. Children are the primary victims of the war: nearly 3,200 have been killed, over 5,700 have been injured and nearly 3,500 have been recruited into armed forces and groups.
The war's impact on children has been staggering. More than 325,000 children under 5 years are suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM),and more than 20.5 million people urgently need WASH services.Nutrition needs are continuing to rise in the south, and lack of funding for WASH is undermining the WASH response. These conditions are heightening the risk of cholera, malnutrition and other WASH-related diseases, including COVID-19. In the first six months of 2020, nearly 110,000 suspected cases of acute watery diarrhoea/cholera and 27 associated deaths were recorded.Immunization coverage has stagnated at the national level, with 37 per cent of children under 1 year missing routine vaccinations.As a result, the country is seeing regular outbreaks of measles, diphtheria and other preventable diseases. In 2020, Yemen confirmed 16 cases of vaccine-derived poliovirus.
By 31 August 2020, Yemen had confirmed nearly 2,000 cases of COVID-19, including over 1,100 recoveries and nearly 570 deaths.The outbreak has put added pressure on the already fragile health system – more than half of health facilities are not functioning – and global shortages and breaks in the supply chain could lead to further loss of household income, rising food prices and inflation.At least 2 million children in Yemen were out of school before the COVID-19 outbreak; and following COVID-19 school closures, an additional 5.8 million children have had their educations disrupted.School closures and the worsening economic situation due to COVID-19 restrictions have increased the vulnerability of children and women to exploitation, violence and abuse, including child labour, domestic and gender-based violence and child marriage.