• Sana’a International Airport (SIA) closure impedes humanitarian staff movement and the importation of relief commodities.
• Fuel shortages and price increases constrain humanitarian operations and raise prices of locally produced food.
• USAID/BHA supports WFP to provide emergency food assistance to approximately 8.2 million people during September distribution cycle.
• Escalated conflict in Marib Governorate displaces nearly 11,000 households between early January and late September, including more than 2,000 households since mid-August.
SIA Closure Raises Concerns Regarding Relief Staff and Cargo Movement
From September 9 to 26, Al Houthi officials closed SIA to all flights, reportedly due to fuel shortages hampering operational continuity, according to the UN. The airport’s closure impeded staff movement into and out of northern Yemen and prevented the importation of critical medical supplies required for health interventions, including COVID-19 and poliovirus response efforts, the UN reports. As of late September, SIA’s shutdown had prevented the UN World Health Organization (WHO) from importing more than 200 metric tons (MT) of COVID-19-related medical supplies and nearly 2.4 million doses of oral polio vaccine to respond to the circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 1 outbreak in Sa’dah Governorate. The U.S. Government (USG) continues to support advocacy efforts for the regular rotation of humanitarian flights into and out of northern Yemen to support ongoing relief operations.
Relief Actors Concerned About Fuel Crisis’ Humanitarian Impacts
Fuel shortages since June have further constrained hospital operations and hindered fuel-dependent water supply systems, both of which are essential to disease prevention and response efforts in Yemen, the UN reports. From mid-June to mid-September, the prices of diesel and gas countrywide increased by approximately 50 and 60 percent, respectively, due to fuel import shortages, according to the UN World Food Program (WFP). The heightened fuel prices have increasingly constrained access to livelihoods and markets and raised transportation costs of essential commodities, such as food and safe drinking water. The fuel shortages and related price volatility are primarily driven by an ongoing political dispute between Al Houthi and Republic of Yemen Government (RoYG) officials over port revenues that has impeded fuel imports. Vessels discharged only an estimated 20,000 MT of fuel through Yemen’s Red Sea Ports during September, a decrease of more than 75 percent compared with the nearly 84,000 MT of fuel imported during August, according to the UN Verification and Inspection Mechanism for Yemen. From January through May, ships discharged an average of more than 206,000 MT of fuel per month through the two ports.
Moreover, the ongoing fuel crisis is adversely affecting the price of perishable items, according to the Food Security and Agriculture Cluster (FSAC). Rising irrigation and transportation costs have increased prices of fresh animal products, such as dairy, eggs, fish, and meat, and locally produced cereals, fruits, and vegetables in Yemen, raising concern among relief actors regarding household access to adequately nutritious foods, FSAC reports. Between May and September, the price of tomatoes increased by 125 percent; okra by 100 percent; carrots by 75 percent; and onions and potatoes by more than 50 percent. Meanwhile, the fuel crisis has had a limited effect on the minimum food basket—comprising imported food commodities such as beans, sugar, vegetable oil, and wheat—across Yemen, with price volatility primarily caused by currency devaluation and ongoing conflict, rather than fuel shortages.
Under current conditions, the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) does not anticipate Famine—IPC 5—levels of acute food insecurity in Yemen through January 2021; however, a significant decline in food imports or prolonged disruptions in commercial or humanitarian food supply chains could lead to Famine, FEWS NET reports. 5 In response to ongoing food insecurity and with USAID/BHA and other donor support, WFP provided emergency food assistance to approximately 8.2 million people through operations in the south and reduced operations in the north during its September distribution cycle.
Clashes in Marib Result in Increased Displacement Since Mid-August
Escalated hostilities in Marib between mid-August and late September resulted in civilian casualties and prompted further displacement in the governorate, relief actors report. From August 16 to September 24, heightened conflict displaced an estimated 2,100 households, nearly 12,600 individuals, representing 20 percent of the total 11,000 households displaced since January, according to the International Organization for Migration (IOM). The Protection Cluster reports that conflict since January has displaced some households in northern Yemen up to five times, significantly increasing protection risks.
On September 12, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on parties to the conflict to cease hostilities and respect international humanitarian law, as clashes near Marib city—which hosts at least 800,000 internally displaced persons (IDPs), according to IOM—intensified, international media report. ICRC expressed concern for the conflict’s adverse effects on IDPs residing in Marib city camps, noting that July-to-August flooding had exacerbated displaced households’ vulnerability, with many already facing critical food and medicine shortages.
COVID-19 Continues to Spread Amid Constrained Access to Health Care
Relief actors remain concerned regarding the continued spread of COVID-19 throughout Yemen.
Health actors have emphasized that the number of cases in the country is significantly underreported due to low testing capacity and lack of information-sharing by authorities. Official figures do not include any data from northern Yemen since an initial four cases reported in Sana’a city in May, and the UN notes that full-scale community transmission is likely occurring countrywide. The Health Cluster reports that access impediments, insecurity, and insufficient capacity and number of health workers continue to hinder access to essential health care services in Yemen, including COVID-19 treatment.
Additionally, worsening economic conditions are hampering the ability of Yemenis to afford transportation to and from health care facilities, while damaged roads due to heavy rains and flooding are compounding transportation challenges.
Despite these constraints, health actors are supporting 35 operational isolation units for severe and critical COVID-19 cases throughout the country, providing case management and operational support; infection prevention and control training; medical equipment and supplies; medicines; and ventilators, among other assistance. In addition, Health Cluster partners are supporting transportation and referral of patients through a voucher system to improve access and utilization of health care services. To underpin Yemen’s wider health system, USAID/BHA continues to fund health and water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) interventions, including support for handwashing stations, mobile clinics, and primary health care.
HRW Highlights Continued Aid Obstruction Across Yemen
Parties to the conflict in Yemen continue to obstruct the provision of emergency assistance in contravention of international humanitarian law, according to a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report based on interviews with relief organizations, donors, and health workers. According to the report, Al Houthi officials have delayed project implementation, blocked assessment and monitoring activities, restricted staff movement, attempted to divert aid to loyalists and seize humanitarian assets, and detained and intimidated relief actors. HRW also reports that actors associated with the RoYG and Southern Transitional Council are increasingly obstructing aid operations in eastern and southern Yemen. The USG continues to coordinate with other donors and relief actors to advocate for the unimpeded, principled, and sustained delivery of humanitarian assistance across Yemen.