With current fighting and constant changing front lines, more people are being displaced every day – and more than 20 million people in Yemen are in need of aid. The Danish Refugee Council (DRC) is assisting newly displaced with among other things food assistance and access to clean water.
The port city of Hodeidah in Yemen has for the last months been subject to heavy fighting with severe consequences for the civilian population and large displacement. According to the UN, nearly 470,000 people have fled Hodeidah Governorate since early June – in a country where millions already are displaced and 75 percent of the populations are dependent on humanitarian aid.
“The front line around Hodeidah changes constantly. We've met displaced persons who've fled fighting close to the front line. They now live in makeshift tent sites, unfinished buildings and collective shelters. Often more families share one room or building. The needs are huge – and that is one of the reasons why DRC is scaling up in Yemen,” says DRC Head of Emergency, Christian Gad – who spent the last week in Yemen.
The sheer numbers speak for themselves. More than 22 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, 17.8 million are food insecure and 8.4 million don't know where to get their next meal from. During 2018, DRC has scaled up emergency capacity to respond to what the UN has labelled as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
“The situation in Yemen comprises all one can imagine in a humanitarian catastrophe. IDPs, returnees, food scarcity, diseases such as cholera and ongoing fighting. It's a lot to balance and we do everything we can to save lives and scale up the emergency operation. But people in Yemen are fighting everyday against hunger, cholera and targeted airstrikes. I've never seen such suffering on such a huge scale,” says DRC Country Director, Audrey Crawford.
Many places and many civilians in Yemen have been hit by airstrikes, including schools and hospitals, causing great fear and not least serious damage for the civilian population. It means that thousands of civilians, among those thousands of children have been killed and injured due to these target airstrikes.
“We assist children who have been maimed following airstrikes; children who've lost a limb from stepping on a landmine or struck by missiles. We provide assistance with the immediate treatment, but also necessary equipment to help them to readapt to their lives afterwards – and ideally with getting back to school. One of the most recent tragic events was to assist the child survivors of the bus bombing a month ago in Sa’ada,” says Audrey Crawford.
DRC works across Yemen on both sides of the front line, covering 19 out of Yemen's 22 governorates. DRC has worked in Yemen for many years, focusing on food security, income generating projects in order for people to promote resilience. However, with the current situation, more emergency assistance is needed to assist the people affected by the conflict.
“DRC meets the needs, where the displaced find protection and safety, often in very dire situations. But its still a better option than where they came from where their lives often were in direct danger. The need for more emergency assistance is imminent – food, water and sanitation as well as other basic emergency supplies. The situation and the needs for the civilians only get worse by the hour. At the same time this is one of the places in the world with the worst access constraints. It is very difficult to get aid into the country. And our staff work under high pressure with recurring airstrikes which in addition to the civilian population also put the aid workers at direct risk,” says Christian Gad.
The Danish Refugee Council calls for parties to the conflict to engage in a just political solution and start respecting international humanitarian law.
“The humanitarian assistance we provide is a critical stopgap, but this situation for the Yemeni people will only end with a commitment from parties to the conflict to engage in an inclusive political process. Peace in Yemen is the only way forward. Everyday we witness the devastating impact of the conflict on the lives of ordinary people, and the deteriorating humanitarian situation – this must stop now,” says Audrey Crawford.
Audrey Crawford, DRC’s Country Director in Yemen says: “We are equally worried about the likely closure of the port of Hodeidah, through which 70% of supplies are shipped. With rates of malnutrition and disease running high, the port is a vital lifeline for millions of Yemenis who are dependent on aid.”