Middle East

Yemen crisis: How bad is the humanitarian situation?

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UN officials have warned that the already desperate humanitarian situation in Yemen has severely deteriorated over the last eight months. How bad is it?

The country is experiencing 'a humanitarian catastrophe'.

Image copyright EPA

That was the frank assessment of the UN's Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, on 19 August.

The UN said on 12 November that at least 5,878 people had been killed and 27,867 others had been wounded since the escalation in March of the conflict between forces loyal to the exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.

The destruction of infrastructure and restrictions on imports imposed by a Saudi-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the rebels have led to 21.2 million people being deprived of life-sustaining commodities and basic services.


Yemen was already struggling.

Yemen has been plagued by years of instability, poor governance, lack of rule of law and widespread poverty.

Before March, almost half of all Yemenis lived below the poverty line, two-thirds of youths were unemployed, and basic social services were on the verge of collapse.

Almost 16 million people, or 61% of the population, were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.


Civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption More than half-a-million children are severely malnourished in Yemen

Between 26 March, when the Saudi-led coalition began bombing rebel forces, and 16 October, the UN recorded 7,655 civilian casualties, including 2,577 killed and 5,078 wounded. Just under half of Yemen's population is under 18 and at least 505 children are among those killed. The UN children's fund (Unicef) warned in October that the "the situation for children is deteriorating every single day, and it is horrific".

On 18 November, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it had verified 8,875 reports of human rights violations - an average of 43 every day.

A report published by Amnesty International in August said all parties might have committed war crimes. It accused the Saudi-led coalition of carrying out unlawful air strikes on heavily-populated sites with no military targets nearby, and the Houthis of using heavy weapons indiscriminately.


Four out of five Yemenis now need aid.

After a visit to the country in August, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, declared: "Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years."

The conflict has reached 21 out of 22 of Yemen's provinces and shows no sign of ending. More than 2.51 million people have been displaced internally - more than four times the number recorded at the beginning of 2015. An additional 121,000 people have fled the country.

An estimated 14.4 million are considered food insecure and 7.6 million severely food insecure, according to the WFP.

An estimated 3 million people now require treatment or preventive services for malnutrition. About 2 million are currently acutely malnourished, including 1.3 million children - 320,000 of whom are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.

Yemen usually imports more than 90% of its food. The naval embargo and fighting around the port of Aden have stopped all but a fraction of imports getting through, causing severe shortages of food and price rises. A lack of fuel, coupled with insecurity and damage to markets and roads, have also prevented supplies from being distributed.

Ten of Yemen's 22 provinces provinces have been classified by the WFP at the "emergency" level for food security - one step below "famine".

The restrictions on imports of fuel - essential for maintaining the water supply - combined with damage to pumps and sewage treatment facilities, also mean that 19.3 million people now lack access to safe drinking water or sanitation.

People have been forced to rely on untreated water supplies and unprotected wells, placing them at risk of life-threatening illnesses such as diarrhoea and cholera.

Those affected, however, will struggle to get medical help. An estimated 14.1 million people across Yemen lack access to basic healthcare, with almost 600 health facilities having stopped functioning due to conflict-related damage or lack of fuel, staff and supplies, according to the UN.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that medicines for many chronic diseases are no longer available and pregnant women may soon face dramatically increased risks of death during childbirth. Outbreaks of deadly communicable diseases have also been reported.


Aid organisations are struggling to help.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption A near-total blockade by the Saudi-led coalition has limited aid shipments

More than 70 humanitarian organisations have been working to help those in need. However, a lack of funding and access constraints have critically hampered their efforts.

In June, the UN launched an appeal for $1.6bn (£1bn) to allow it to assist 11.7 million people. But as of 18 November, it was 43% funded.

A Saudi humanitarian organisation, the King Salman Center, has signed agreements with the UN that will provide $244m in aid for Yemen.

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