The humanitarian situation in Yemen is deteriorating. According to the 2021 Yemen Humanitarian Needs Overview, 20.7 million people require some form of humanitarian and protection assistance, and more than 16.2 million of them face the threat of famine. Worryingly, 5 million people are estimated to be on the verge of famine in the next six months. Challenges faced by conflict-affected populations in Yemen are multi-faceted; typically, a combination of food insecurity, displacement, protection risks, economic decline, weather related problems and eroded public systems. The value of the Yemeni rial continues to fluctuate, especially in southern governorates, and remittance payments have yet to return to pre-COVID-19 levels. In the first quarter of the year, IOM estimates that 26,844 people were displaced across 13 governorates – similar to trends during this period in 2020, when 27,402 people were displaced. Civilian casualties resulting from conflict incidents in communities increased this quarter, and migrants continued to be under threat from not just the conflict, but also from increased detention, forced transfers and deteriorating living conditions. A fire at a migrant holding facility in Sana’a, which took the lives of more than 40 people , clearly illustrated the dangers for migrant across the country.
The second wave of the COVID-19 outbreak began hitting Yemen hard. By the end of March, there were 4,119 reported cases and 864 associated deaths, with more than half of total cases reported this quarter alone. Although the limited access to testing and surveillance does not allow for a full understanding of the spread of the virus, and locations in the north continue to report only four cases, anecdotal information and analysis from the WHO indicate a concerning situation.
Authorities in several locations across the south and Ma’rib have instituted curfews and issued guidance as part of efforts to promote positive behaviour changes to help control the spread of the virus. By the end of March, Yemen received 360,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which was the first batch of the 14 million doses that Yemen will receive through the COVAX facility The conflict in Ma’rib escalated once again in February, this time mostly affecting internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sirwah district to the west of Ma’rib city. Since the offensive was launched, fighting has continued on a near daily basis, displacing 2,625 households (18,375 individuals). IOM estimates that, in total, close to 21,000 households have been displaced in Ma’rib city, Ma’rib Al Wadi and Sirwah since January 2020, between January 2020 and March 2021. Local authorities and humanitarian partners, who were already grappling with limited resources while responding to the needs of some 1 million IDPs across the governorate, are further struggling to meet both the existing and growing needs.
Security incidents such as these have continued to impact humanitarian access, however, the main constraints in Yemen continue to be related to bureaucratic impediments and interference in humanitarian activities. Restrictions on the movement of humanitarian organizations, personnel and goods within and into Yemen is still the most widely reported issue since 2019 – for IOM alone, only one approval to transport aid supplies from Sana’a to locations in need was received this quarter.
In February, IOM released its Crisis Appeal for 2021, seeking donor support for its emergency response, helping to address the acute and growing humanitarian crisis. IOM’s priority is to expand programming that tackles the pre-existing drivers of fragility, while also providing frontline multi-sectoral humanitarian assistance in locations where needs are high and the Organization has access.
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