Yemen: Outlook for April-September 2020 : Risk Overview – 2 April 2020

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Risk 1: Renewed Houthi offensive in Marib causes displacement east/southwards and severely reduced access to essential services

The Houthis currently see themselves in a position of strength compared to the Government of Yemen (GoY). Control of Marib would nearly complete the Houthis control over northern Yemen. An intense conflict in Marib would cause casualties and displace over 500,000 people into the eastern and southern corners of Marib (immediately to Harib), potentially spilling into Bayhan and Shabwah. Food and water would emerge as priority needs and tensions with host communities would likely rise.
The lack of water and sanitation would increase the risk of cholera and dengue outbreaks and other communicable diseases. Protection concerns would expectedly rise.

Risk 2: Conflict escalates across the southwest causing significant loss of life, mass displacement, and severely reduced access to essential services

If the GoY loses what legitimacy it still commands amongst the population in southern Yemen, and a public protests occurs, there is a risk that the STC will decide to take advantage of a weakened government to launch an offensive on Aden and other key locations in the south. The UAE may choose to strengthen its alliance with the STC through greater financial support and backing local militias. Around 300,000 people may displace while significant numbers would become trapped in conflict areas around Shabwah, Aden and/or Taiz. The conflict could result in casualties overwhelming hospitals that lack fuel for generators, supplies, and staff.

Risk 3: De-facto partition results in reduced provision of basic services and reduced operating space for humanitarian actors

Given that the Houthis have established a commanding hold over much of the north, and that there is little prospect of the GoY regaining outright control of Yemen, both sides may choose to focus their efforts on peace negotiations. Saudi Arabia could help to negotiate peace and recognise the Houthis’ mandate to administer much of northern Yemen. This could result in a shifting focus towards post conflict governance structures. Protection issues could rise as the STC and Houthis seek reprisals against their adversaries. International humanitarian organisations face greater restrictions and aid activities reduce, with programs closing in the north.

Risk 4: Rapid depreciation of the Yemeni riyal sparks inflation, reducing households’ ability to purchase basic goods and services

A potential lack or reduction of re-committed funds from Saudi Arabia can place downward pressure on the Yemeni riyal and result in its subsequent depreciation.
Competition between the two central Banks of Yemen, through aggressive financial policies, worsens the financial situation by printing additional bank notes or issuing too many e-riyal. Should Yemen see a period of rapid inflation, the purchasing power of the majority of the Yemeni population will decrease significantly while food and fuel prices rise. This would result in increased levels of food insecurity, reduced access to essential services, and limited mobility.

Risk 5: COVID-19 epidemic in Yemen

COVID-19 virus may enter Yemen and spread rapidly across areas of high population density including Aden, Hadramawt, Sana’a and Marib. Hospitals will struggle to implement sufficient protective measures and within the first month of the first case being registered, many deaths may be recorded. The international community will likely be blamed (rightly or wrongly) and humanitarian operations face a backlash in local media and social media as community acceptance is significantly reduced.