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Civilians under siege

Yemen Crisis Watch

Yemen is facing the largest humanitarian crisis of our time. The International Rescue Committee provides lifesaving emergency aid, clean water, education, women’s protection and medical care to millions of people in Yemen affected by violent conflict and a growing health crisis that now includes COVID-19.

What's happening

  • On Jan. 11, the U.S. government designated Ansar Allah - the de facto state authorities controlling land that is home to 80% of Yemen's population - as a terrorist group.

  • The IRC fears the designation will hinder aid efforts as well as imports of food, medicine, and other vital supplies, putting 24 million Yemenis at risk.

  • "After four years of a failed war strategy that has created the world’s largest humanitarian catastrophe, the last thing the Yemeni people need is further interruption of aid and economic flows," says IRC president and CEO David Miliband.

  • The IRC had already ranked Yemen as the top crisis in the world at risk of deterioration in 2021.

Learn more
Country facts
  • Population: 29.8 million
  • People internally displaced by crisis: 3.6 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 179 of 189
IRC response
  • Started work in Yemen: 2012

Yemen crisis briefing

Yemen, located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is plagued by war, poverty, malnutrition and cholera, amounting to one of the world's most severe humanitarian crises. The IRC provides lifesaving assistance and emergency aid.

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What caused the current crisis in Yemen?

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies began a military intervention in Yemen as part of an effort to unseat the Ansar Allah movement (often called the Houthis) and restore former President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. It's estimated that 100,000 people in Yemen have been killed since early 2016, including 18,500 civilians killed by airstrikes. 3.6 million have been internally displaced as a result of this conflict.

Even before the current crisis, Yemen’s malnutrition rate ranked as one of the world’s worst, and more than half of its population lacked access to drinking water. Violence and discrimination against women and girls has dramatically increased.

There have been several failed attempts to halt this conflict and safely provide aid to those in need. Yemen remains the Arab world’s poorest country.

In 2020, the knock on effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and a steep drop in humanitarian funding put the country at risk of massive further deterioration. Food insecurity is rising and thousands are facing famine-like conditions.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Yemen?

Eighty percent of Yemen’s population is in need of emergency relief and humanitarian assistance.

Continued fighting prevents shipments of food and fuel from entering the country. Hospitals do not have diesel fuel to operate generators during power cuts, and ambulances have run out of gasoline. Stocks of antibiotics and critical medical supplies have been depleted. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has deepened Yemen’s economic crisis, increasing the risk of famine in the country. The humanitarian response faces unprecedented threats from underfunding, on top of one of the world’s most challenging operating environments; 3 million fewer Yemenis were receiving aid each month by late 2020 compared to the response at the beginning of the year.

How does the IRC help in Yemen?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

We first began assisting people in Yemen in 2012, providing clean water and emergency aid to villages in the south of the country. 

Despite the COVID-19 outbreak, the IRC continues to deliver urgent health care and nutrition to those displaced by the war and people living in remote, hard-to-reach areas, and reproductive healthcare to pregnant women and new mothers. We are also continuing to provide critical support to women impacted by gender-based violence and are supporting the establishment of a COVID-19 isolation unit. 

The IRC is continuing our efforts in the Aden, Abyan, Lahj, Al Dahle'e and Shabwa and Sana’a governorates by:

  • providing health, reproductive health, nutrition, water and sanitation services to more than a quarter-million people;
  • delivering essential drugs and medical supplies to hospitals;
  • Improving access to education for millions of out-of-school children;
  • training health staff on cholera treatment;
  • calling for improved humanitarian access and open air and seaports;
  • calling for a country-wide ceasefire and calling on the international community to help achieve a lasting peace.

What can I do to help?

Donate: Make a tax-deductible donation to support the IRC. We are on the ground saving children and families from malnutrition and life-threatening diseases. We are providing clean water, medicine, nutrition services and other urgent aid to as many people as possible. Your gift will help us as we work to save lives in Yemen and in countries around the world.

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