Since 2015, a persistent conflict between the Internationally Recognized Government of Yemen (IRG), with support from the Saudi-led coalition, and the de-facto authority (DFA) in the north of Yemen (also known as the Houthis) has resulted in a severe economic and humanitarian crisis.

The conflicting parties agreed to a United Nations (UN)-mediated truce on April 2, 2022, which expired on Oct. 2, 2022. More than three months after the truce expired, the UN envoy for Yemen said, “we are witnessing a potential step change” in the conflict’s trajectory though the situation remained “complex and fluid.”

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, “While not perfect, the truce enabled a level of stabilization within Yemen and provided a glimpse of a quieter future. Substantial improvements in humanitarian conditions, however, depend on continued international support and the willingness of the parties to facilitate humanitarian access and commit to a political solution.”

In 2023, an estimated 21.6 million people in Yemen will need humanitarian assistance. Humanitarian response priorities in 2023 include preventing food scarcity and finding systemic solutions to food insecurity by improving access to sustainable livelihoods; reducing mortality and morbidity; preventing malnutrition; and providing water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), shelter and non-food item (NFI), education and health services.

(Photo: A medical practitioner uses a Mid Upper-Arm Circumference (MUAC) measuring tape on a child suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition (SAM) in Bani Al-Harith, Sana’a, Yemen. (© UNICEF/UN057347/Almang)

Despite the six-month truce in 2022, armed conflict obstructed humanitarian access in Yemen. According to ACAPS measurement of the level of humanitarian access constraints, Yemen has extreme constraints, the highest level.

Violence against humanitarian staff and assets is a primary concern, along with bureaucratic constraints by the different authorities in Yemen and the requirement for a Mahram (close male relative) to accompany female Yemeni aid workers on humanitarian program visits.

Funding gaps have forced humanitarian partners to cut back or even close life-saving programs. As of Jan. 24, 2023, donors had funded just 51.4% of the 2022 Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. Millions of people cannot meet their basic needs, with vulnerable groups impacted the most, including women, children, older people, people with disabilities and marginalized communities.

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Key facts
  • In 2023, 21.6 million people in Yemen (approximately 68% of the population) need humanitarian assistance. Although this figure represents a decrease from the 23.4 million people in need in 2022, the number of people estimated to be in acute need has increased from 12.9 million people in 2022 to 13.4 million in 2023.
  • In Yemen, 17 million people are food insecure, including 3.5 million people that are acutely malnourished. The World Food Programme (WFP) plan is just 15% funded from January to June 2023.
  • Food prices rose over 2022, driven by the continued depreciation of the Yemeni Rial and rising global prices stemming from the crisis in Ukraine. The cost of the minimum food basket increased by 42% in DFA-controlled areas and 27% in IRG-held areas compared to 2021.
  • Since 2015 when the conflict broke out, more than 4.3 million people have been internally displaced in Yemen, with 1.6 million spreading across over 2,400 sites.
  • From November 2021 through September 2022, 101 people have been killed and another 141 injured by landmines or other explosive remnants of war.
  • In August 2022, 80% of Yemen received heavy rainfall. This was 45% higher than the rainfall experienced in August 2021, triggering devastating floods across the country that affected hundreds of thousands of people.
  • Yemen has an INFORM Climate Change Risk Index for 2022 of 8.1, ranking third among the most vulnerable countries to climate change and least prepared for climate shocks, after Somalia and South Sudan.
Displacement

More than 4.3 million Yemenis are estimated to have been internally displaced as of Sept. 29, 2022, including 53,376 people (8,896 families) that are newly displaced in 2022. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimates that up to 79% of those displaced are women and children.

Of particular note is the overall reduction in displaced households per week since the beginning of 2022, helped significantly by the ceasefire. In the first week of January 2022, approximately 900 households were displaced, but by the week of Oct. 9-15, only 55 households were displaced. While there was a significant spike in August, due to the devastating flooding, the overall trend was downward in 2022.

Source: UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA)
Marginalized groups

Discriminatory societal attitudes towards women’s movement and economic and social engagement remain entrenched. In the 2021 World Economic Forum Global Gender Gap Report, Yemen was ranked in the bottom five countries regarding women’s economic participation, political empowerment and educational attainment.

A study by Mwatana for Human Rights released on Aug. 30, 2022 found that incidents of gender-based violence (GBV) increased throughout the first seven years (the time period included in the study) of the conflict. The authors found that those who were victims or survivors of GBV were also systematically deprived of educational opportunities, which is particularly significant given the lack of educational opportunities within Yemen in 2022.

In 2023, 3.2 million people with disabilities need humanitarian assistance. Normative and implementation gaps in Yemen’s legal framework continue to diminish the protection of minority and marginalized groups, including women and girls and people with disabilities.

An estimated 678,000 displaced people with disabilities experience compounding vulnerabilities and barriers to accessing aid. Along with people with disabilities, older people face stigma and social isolation, as well as an increased risk of being left behind and separated from their families and care providers during displacement.

The humanitarian crisis severely impacts children. According to the UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), “The current humanitarian crisis in Yemen has increased the vulnerability of children and women to exploitation, violence and abuse, child labour, killing and maiming, recruitment and use of children by parties to the conflict as combatants and in various support roles, domestic and gender-based violence, child marriage and psychosocial distress.”

Education

An estimated 8.6 million school-aged children require education assistance due to conflict-related damage and disruption. More than 2,700 schools have been destroyed, partially damaged or utilized for non-educational purposes. Compounding the situation are the 2022 floods that affected around 368 schools, compromising the learning of nearly 1.5 million school-age children. Approximately 2.7 million children are out of school, and girls represent 47% of this figure.

Food insecurity

Food insecurity is one of the most significant challenges for Yemenis, driven by economic challenges, climate change and price increases for diesel and food imports. According to the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC), 17 million people in Yemen experienced acute food insecurity between October and December 2022. The IPC’s acute food insecurity scale is broken down into five phases: no or minimal (Phase 1), stressed (Phase 2), crisis (Phase 3), emergency (Phase 4), and catastrophe, famine or famine likely (Phase 5).

Source: UNOCHA

Among the 17 million people that are acutely food insecure in Yemen, 3.5 million are acutely malnourished. WFP is facing funding shortfalls for multiple activities meaning most WFP activities are implemented at reduced levels, affecting millions of people. The WFP plan is just 15% funded from January to June 2023.

The war in Ukraine resulted in global increases in commodity prices, raising threats to the already dire socioeconomic situation and food access. The cost of the minimum food basket increased by 42% in DFA-controlled areas and 27% in IRG-held areas compared to 2021.

Yemen’s malnutrition figures remain among the highest in the world. Around 1.3 million pregnant or breastfeeding women, and 2.2 million children under five, are estimated to require treatment for acute malnutrition in 2023.

Climatic shocks and disasters worsen the food insecurity situation in the country. Between January and June 2022, Yemen experienced moderate to severe drought conditions and an unprecedented rise in temperatures, affecting all cropped regions.

Food security and malnutrition in Yemen is primarily an issue of affordability rather than availability of food. The food security situation would be worse without the truce among conflicting parties and additional donor funding received in the second half of 2022.

Health

More than 80% of Yemen’s population struggles to access food, safe drinking water and adequate health services. The persistent conflict in Yemen and economic deterioration have compromised people’s access to health facilities.

Yemen’s 2023 Humanitarian Needs Overview states, “The Health Resources and Services Availability Monitoring System, updated in 2022, reveals 49% of health facilities are either partially functional or non-functional due to staff, fund and power shortages, as well as lack of medicines, supplies and equipment. Long distance to health facilities, the unavailability of the required type of service and unaffordability are major obstacles for vulnerable households to receive quality health assistance.”

As of Jan. 24, 2023, there were 11,945 confirmed COVID-19 cases, although this figure is likely larger because of under testing and inconsistent reporting. In October 2022, 64 cases of COVID-19 were officially confirmed, with one associated death, in the southern governorates. UNICEF said there is no COVID-19 vaccination and reporting in the northern part of Yemen.

In their summary report for July and August 2022, the World Health Organization (WHO), along with the Inter-Agency Standing Committee Health Cluster, identified that the “growing risk of famine and severe acute malnutrition” were among some of the most serious health-related concerns.

Climate and natural hazards

In a report released on Oct. 4, 2022, entitled Risking the Future: Climate Change, Environmental Destruction, and Conflict in Yemen, the Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) warned that “resource-based conflicts in Yemen will increase in the coming years as water and land continue to be depleted.”

In the report, CIVIC outlined the major climate change problems facing the country, particularly the ongoing drought and rapidly decreasing levels of groundwater. “Without consistent rainfall, there is not enough water to replenish in the face of heavy use and mismanagement.”

Unfortunately, the rains that arrived during summer 2022 were far more harmful than helpful. These destructive downpours brought flash flooding to at least 19 governates across the country – affecting almost 74,000 households and killing at least 72 people. In addition, these floods wreaked havoc on critical infrastructure including roads, farms, WASH facilities and electrical infrastructure.

Further compounding the hazards to Yemen’s natural resources is the FSO Safer, a supertanker carrying more than 1 million barrels of oil that ran aground outside the port of Al-Hudaydah in 2015. For the last seven years, it has been rusting away as its structure has been exposed to the moisture and salt with little to no maintenance.

Not only is the ship at risk of spilling its contents into the Red Sea – a catastrophe that would ruin coastlines and fisheries across the body of water – it is also at risk of exploding after inert air that usually inhibits an explosion dissipated over the years. A spill would also reduce or eliminate capacity at the port of Hodeidah, the main entry point for humanitarian aid, while also eroding fishing capabilities and livelihoods for millions of people along the coastline. The United Nations raised $75 million in September 2022 to salvage the FSO Safer and its contents. However, rising costs present a new obstacle for the complex operation.

The most critical ongoing need is for unrestricted funding that addresses the needs outlined in the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan. Unrestricted funding allows agencies working in Yemen to direct the funds to the places and clusters where it is most needed.

Food insecurity

Funding for basic food needs is core to the long-term food security needs of Yemenis. A story from the Relief and Development Peer Foundation (RDP) highlights the ways that receiving basic food supplies can allow families to save money that they would have otherwise needed. These savings allow them to purchase livestock that can continue to increase their food security by providing income and other food.

A multi-cluster location assessment found that food was the second-highest need for those assessed, with 52% of them ranking it as a priority. This was surpassed only by the need for livelihood which was reported by 66% of those assessed, though there is a direct connection between having a livelihood and the ability to purchase food and agricultural supplies.

As in the Horn of Africa, which is also experiencing protracted conflict and severe drought, a two-track approach that addresses the immediate humanitarian needs of people in Yemen while investing in longer-term programs that strengthen resilience is needed.

Health

Funding for direct medical care is badly needed, particularly to support those experiencing cholera and other transmissible diseases. Many people are also suffering from the medical side effects of malnutrition, requiring additional care because of insufficient food supplies.

Lack of access to clean water can cause major health outbreaks, including the current cholera outbreak that started in October 2016.

One of the underlying drivers of malnutrition is the lack of access to WASH and health services. Improving access to safe water and sanitation will have a multiplying impact on food security and health. Distribution of medical supplies, restoring health infrastructure, supporting vaccine deployment and continued investment in community health workers are other opportunities for funders.

Support for marginalized groups

Funding directed at women and children (especially girls) is essential to the long-term wellbeing of Yemen as a whole. While some projects, such as a literacy program led by UNHCR that began training more than 800 women and girls between the ages of 13 and 30, have had some success, more targeted funding is needed.

In their report Fragile Walls: A study of domestic violence against women during the war in Yemen, Mwatana’s recommendations to international organizations and donors include ensuring the sustainability of projects over time, supporting research and survey studies on violence against women for purposes of influencing policies, and putting pressure on authorities to work towards effective reforms in law enforcement and judicial institutions.

Maternal mortality rates in Yemen remain extremely high, with one woman dying every two hours during childbirthfrom causes that are almost entirely preventable. Improving access to reproductive health services and antenatal care, and safe delivery, particularly in rural areas, is critical.

The International Organization for Migration estimates that just under 44,000 migrants “are currently stranded throughout Yemen, many are held under the control of dangerous smuggling networks.”

Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers who are en route to Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States are mostly Ethiopian nationals. Migrants, refugees and asylum seekers represent some of the most marginalized groups in Yemen and have limited prospects for becoming self-reliant and need access to basic services.

Inclusion in the design and implementation of humanitarian programming for women and children, people with disabilities, migrants, and older adults is essential and helps ensure that humanitarian assistance is relevant and targeted. Addressing forced eviction, housing tenure insecurity, negative coping mechanisms, mental health and psychosocial support, and protection concerns will help reduce vulnerability.

Livelihoods

Support for livelihood development will provide some of the best return on investment. When people are given the opportunity to support themselves, they have some financial stability which in turn allows them to have sustained access to healthy food, housing and to re-invest into their communities.

Increasing the number of people who are self-sufficient or even produce extra resources will reduce the number of people reliant on international aid. Improving livelihoods also allows families and communities to start their recovery from prolonged shocks, meet immediate and longer-term needs, and promote resilience to future shocks, including disasters.

For example, a grant from Mercy Corps’ CDP-funded “Pathway to Sustainable Livelihoods” program allowed a university student with disability to buy a mobile cart to sell sweets, toiletries and stationary next to her neighborhood school and a busy market. The student said, “With the profits from my cart, I am now earning enough to pay for my school fees, my parents’ medicine and our everyday needs.”

Climate and natural hazards

Niku Jafarnia, a researcher with CIVIC and author of Risking the Future: Climate Change, Environmental Destruction, and Conflict in Yemen, said: “Even if the conflict in Yemen were to end today, Yemenis will have to prepare for another battle: the fight against climate change…The country will bear the environmental scars of warfare in its soil and water sources for decades to come.”

Funding for projects such as the one launched by the UN Human Settlements Program, which will identify needs and help determine climate adaptation priorities to increase climate resilience, are essential to helping Yemen become a stable and self-sufficient country after the end of the war.

Funding for the reconstruction of infrastructure that was damaged in the flooding of summer 2022 is another critical need. As rainfall becomes more intense, infrastructure must be built to withstand much more severe flooding conditions than before. Households, roads, hospitals, schools, electrical grids and other critical infrastructure must be rebuilt to higher standards to be better able to resist the effects of climate change.

CDP’s Global Recovery Fund provides donors with opportunities to meet the ongoing and ever-expanding challenges presented by global crises. CDP also has a Disaster Recovery Fund that provides the chance for donors to meet the needs of those affected by this humanitarian crisis in the U.S. and territories.

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Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a donation to the CDP Global Recovery Fund, please contact development.

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO or a donor, please send updates on how you are working on recovery from this disaster to Tanya Gulliver-Garcia.

We welcome the republication of our content. Please credit the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Donor recommendations
If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email Regine A. Webster.
Philanthropic and government support

CDP awarded Project HOPE $500,000 from the COVID-19 Fund in 2022 to extend the successful mental health and resilience training for COVID-19 frontline health workers in 11 countries including Yemen. Leveraging existing resources developed with CDP support, Project Hope will scale the program to reach an additional 16,000 healthcare workers across countries experiencing complex humanitarian emergencies.

CDP awarded Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) $250,000 from the Global Recovery Fund in 2020 to provide maternal and pediatric healthcare and operational support of surgical facilities that focus on war surgery and emergency obstetric care. MSF programs focus on the hardest-hit areas of Yemen, especially those in or near conflict zones. MSF teams work in 12 hospitals and health centers across the country and support an additional 20 health facilities in 12 governorates: Abyan, Aden, Amran, Hajjah, Hodeidah, Ibb, Lahj, Saada, Sana’a, Shabwah, Taiz and Marib. There is $50,000 designated for working with Health Ministries to enhance and strengthen infection prevention and control (IPC) measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic response.

CDP awarded $249,935 to Mercy Corps from the Global Recovery Fund in 2020 to increase market activity in the Taiz governorate of Yemen by strengthening small and micro enterprises through access to financial services, including grants and loans, as well as in-person business training and mentorship. This program also supports local communities with increased access to functional market systems that create competitive options when purchasing goods and services and more accessibility within their localities.

The country’s 2022 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) requested $4.27 billion to reach 17.9 million people. As of Jan. 24, donors had funded only 51.4% of the 2022 Yemen HRP is currently funded, a shortfall of more than $2.08 billion.

On Oct. 16, 2022, the Yemen Red Crescent Society, the Qatar Red Crescent Society and the Kuwait Red Crescent Society announced a $150,000 project to provide almost 600 families with emergency shelter kits. This comes less than one week after the Qatar Red Crescent Society announced a $1.5 million project supporting over 3,000 families to “provide nonfood items (NFIs) and housing rentals for vulnerable groups, with funding from the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) Yemen Humanitarian Fund (YHF).” These shelter kits included seven mattresses and blankets, two plastic mattresses, kitchenware, a solar lamp, two water buckets, and a cooking stove.

On Sept. 29, 2022, the European Union made a $9.25 million (€9.4 million) donation to the UNFPA to support reproductive health care and mental health services for displaced women and girls. The European Union also made an emergency donation of $147,568 (€150,000) as part of the response to the flooding in the summer of 2022.

Significant donations were made in September 2022 by the Qatar Fund for Development  ($3 million) and the Government of The Netherlands ($14.76 million or €15 million) to support salvage operations of the FSO Safer.

Resources

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Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

Complex Humanitarian Emergencies

CHEs involve an acute emergency layered over ongoing instability. Multiple scenarios can cause CHEs, like the civil wars in Syria and Yemen, the man-made political crisis in Venezuela, or the public health crisis in Congo.

Famine

Famine

According to the United Nations’ definition, a “famine” has taken hold when: at least 20 percent of households in an area face extreme food shortages; more than two people in 10,000 are dying each day (from both lack of food and reduced immunity to disease); and more than 30 percent of the population is experiencing acute malnutrition. 

Internally Displaced People

Internally Displaced People

Internally displaced persons are those who have been forced to flee their homes, in particular as a result of armed conflict, generalized violence, violations of human rights or disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.