OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
Escalating conflict has severely exacerbated Yemen’s pre-existing humanitarian crisis. Partners now estimate that 21.2 million people need some kind of humanitarian assistance. However, the severity of needs varies greatly, as outlined in the 2016 Humanitarian Needs Overview.
Casualties and displacement
The conduct of the conflict has been brutal and has exacted a severe toll on civilians. As of late January 2016, health facilities had reported more than 35,000 casualties, including more than 6,100 deaths, since mid-March – an average of 113 casualties per day. Many casualties are believed to be civilians, and partners estimate that eight children are being killed or maimed every day. Casualty estimates understate true figures, as they rely on health facility data, and many people face extreme difficulty in accessing health facilities.
Conflict is also driving people from their homes at alarming rates. Partners estimate that 2.5 million people are currently displaced within Yemen, about half of whom are in Taizz, Amran, Hajjah, Sana’a and Abyan governorates. In addition, at least 171,000 people – mainly third-country nationals – have fled the country to Somalia, Djibouti and other locations. With no camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs), displacement has led to a dispersed population that is often difficult to identify or assess for vulnerability or specific needs. Many IDPs are living with host families, placing additional strain on scarce resources, or renting shelter, which becomes challenging as rental prices increase and displacement becomes protracted. Some IDPs are seeking shelter in public buildings – including 169 schools as of January 2016 – or in the open, although precise numbers are not available. Displacement and hosting IDPs are significant drivers of needs for food, water and other basic assistance – particularly shelter, healthcare, education and essential household items. As return currently appears unlikely for most IDPs, the pressure on limited basic services will continue to lead to challenges for IDPs and host communities.
Growing protection risks and rights violations
With continued volatility and insecurity in many parts of Yemen, affected people – including IDPs, host communities and other conflict-affected communities – are increasingly facing challenges to survival. Protection assessments indicate that these challenges include lack of safety, separated families, limited freedom of movement, harassment, child recruitment and gender-based violence. In addition, affected people face limited livelihood opportunities; increasing tensions between displaced and host communities; lost documentation (including birth registration or identity cards needed to access services); issues regarding housing, land and property; and limited access to services. Affected populations often have little information about how to access assistance and how to support positive coping mechanisms. As conflict continues, it will be crucial to strengthen understanding of protection risks and identify how best to address them so as to reduce vulnerabilities and increase affected people’s ability to survive. Providing this protection support is central to the response and should be approached as central to the provision of other types of assistance.
In addition to running greater risk of death, injury and displacement, civilians in Yemen have seen soaring rates of human rights violations since the conflict escalated. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and other human rights organizations have outlined major concerns regarding the conduct of the conflict, including credible reports of violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law by all parties – some of which may amount to war crimes. OHCHR had verified 13,080 reports of human rights and abuses as of 31 January 2016 – an average of 41 violations per day since mid-March. From January to November 2015, the Monitoring and Reporting Mechanism of Grave Violations of Child Rights (MRM) verified 747 incidents of children being killed and 1,120 cases of children being maimed. These figures are respectively almost 10 times and five times higher than in all of 2014. Rates of child recruitment or use by armed groups are nearly five times higher. Reports of gender-based violence in December 2015 were more than twice as high as in March. Front-line areas – including Aden, Sa’ada, Taizz and areas along the border with Saudi Arabia – have been devastated by sustained fighting, shelling or air strikes. In 2016, partners estimate that 14.1 million people require assistance to protect their basic rights – a 23 per cent increase since June.
Declining living conditions
Even before the current crisis, Yemen faced enormous levels of humanitarian need, with 15.9 million people estimated to require some form of humanitarian assistance in late 2014. These needs stemmed from years of poverty, underdevelopment, environmental decline, intermittent conflict, poor governance and weak rule of law, including widespread violations of human rights. Living conditions deteriorated further in the years following the political turmoil that saw long-time President Ali Abdullah Saleh leave office in early 2012. Nearly a year of intensified conflict has accelerated this decline and seen remaining basic services rapidly deteriorate. As of November 2015, almost 600 health facilities had closed due to damage, shortages of critical supplies or lack of health workers, including nearly 220 facilities providing treatment for acute malnutrition. Other health facilities are operating at much reduced capacity for the same reasons. More than 1.8 million additional children have been out of school since mid March 2015, bringing the total school-aged population out of school to more than 3.4 million. As of January 2016, 1,170 schools were unfit for use due to damage, presence of IDPs or occupation by armed groups.
The decline in living conditions has accelerated due to ongoing conflict and difficulties importing essential goods – including the impact of previous import restrictions imposed by the Saudi-led Coalition. Over 90 per cent of staple food (including cereals) was imported prior to the crisis, and the country was using an estimated 544,000 metric tons of imported fuel per month for transport and to pump water and run hospital generators, among other activities. Although Coalition-imposed import restrictions largely eased from mid-October, estimated fuel imports in December fell to just 15 per cent of estimated monthly needs. The impact on the provision of basic services and the economy has been profound. Fuel prices were on average 91 per cent higher in late December than before the crisis, with wheat prices 14 per cent higher. Eight governorates in late December reported that a majority of basic commodities were only sporadically available, and in no governorates were all basic commodities widely available.
Amid these challenges, purchasing power has deteriorated, particularly for poor and conflict-affected households. According to estimates by the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, real GDP per capita in Yemen – already the lowest in the Arab world – declined 35 per cent in 2015 to an estimated US$320, squeezing vulnerable communities’ coping mechanisms. Partners estimate that half of conflict-affected people have seen their livelihoods destroyed as a result of the crisis, and that traditional safety nets – including remittances or assistance from friends and relatives – are increasingly unavailable. Businesses are facing mounting losses, ranging as high as $315,000 (YER 68 million) per month for large enterprises.
Growing needs in key sectors
The result of all these factors has been large increases in humanitarian needs in nearly all sectors, leaving 21.2 million people in need of some form of assistance. Within this population, wide variations in the type and severity of needs exist.
• 14.4 million people are now food insecure. Severely food insecure people – estimated at 7.6 million – require immediate emergency food assistance.
• 19.4 million people in Yemen require assistance to ensure access to safe drinking water and sanitation, of whom 9.8 million are in need as a direct result of the conflict.
Commercial water trucks – the main source of water for many – are reportedly between two and four times more expensive and are in some cases unable to enter affected areas due to insecurity or interference by parties to the conflict. Sanitation is deteriorating, with uncollected solid waste in frontline areas posing a serious risk of public health crisis.
• Deteriorating health services have left 14.1 million people seeking scarce health services from ever fewer facilities, most of which are under-resourced and over-burdened.
Medical supplies for mass casualty management and essential medicine for chronic diseases are in increasingly short supply. Girls and women – especially pregnant women and women in rural areas – are particularly disadvantaged by a lack of female health service providers. More than 520,000 pregnant women lack access to reproductive health services.
• Nutrition partners estimate that 2 million acutely malnourished children and pregnant or lactating women need treatment, and an additional 1 million children require preventive services. About 320,000 children are currently suffering from severe acute malnutrition, meaning they are nine times likelier to die than their peers.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.