Crisis in Yemen: How to Help
Yemen is the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with three-fourths of the country's population requiring some form of assistance to survive. Project HOPE is helping provide the vital support people in Yemen need most. Get the facts about this crisis and learn more about how you can help below.
Last updated: September 24, 2019
The world’s most severe and devastating humanitarian crisis
What began as a local conflict in Yemen has spiraled into a four-year civil war that shows little sign of resolution. The war in Yemen is a grave human catastrophe that has taken a massive toll on the most vulnerable: in many areas, women and children lack access to the basic care that can help them survive and live full lives. Today, more than 22 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance, a number greater than the entire population of the state of New York.
The numbers are staggering: 20 million Yemenis are food insecure, 19 million do not have access to clean water and sanitation, and the worst cholera outbreak in modern history has claimed more than 2,500 lives. According to the United Nations, 10 million people in Yemen are one step away from famine.1
The Latest Developments
August 14, 2019: Project HOPE teams up to launch Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen
Project HOPE has joined with MedGlobal, Pure Hands and United Mission for Relief and Development to form the Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen to launch a closely coordinated, holistic response to the continually worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The four U.S.-based nonprofit organizations will leverage their expertise and resources to deliver humanitarian and development assistance to the people of Yemen and address the needs of millions of people in rapid decline after five years of conflict.
“We know that the continued and seemingly relentless fighting has left too many communities in urgent need of the basics – food, clean water and medicine,” says Rabih Torbay, president and CEO of Project HOPE. “Women and children are disproportionally affected by the near complete collapse of health services. Our objective is to save lives and eventually rebuild the health care system. For far too many people, time is running out.”
Get The Facts: What You Need To Know
Yemen is located on the southern end of the Arabian Peninsula, with long coastlines that stretch along the Gulf of Aden and the Red Sea. While Yemen is home to the largest expanse of desert in the world, its varied geography ranges from coastal plains to towering mountain peaks.
The ongoing war has exacerbated Yemen’s vulnerabilities; even prior to its current conflict, Yemen has struggled to maintain peace. It is the poorest country in the Middle East and imports about 90% of its food, leaving its people extremely vulnerable to conflict and blockades of its ports.
What is happening in Yemen?
Yemen’s civil war is the worst humanitarian crisis on Earth.
The country has been locked in conflict since 2015, when an opposition group from north Yemen, the Houthis, took over the government in Sana’a and ignited a war that has now bled across borders. The war plunged Yemen into crisis: the economy collapsed; diseases like cholera and diphtheria spread; and a health system already ravaged by years of political unrest has struggled under the weight of widespread need.
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has worsened significantly since 2015, due in part to a naval blockade on vital port cities like Hodeidah. That blockade left millions of people on the brink of famine and facing the deadly threat of cholera.
Though representatives from both sides held peace talks in Sweden in 2018, thus far no permanent resolution to the conflict is in sight.
“I’ve been to many conflict areas, but the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is definitely by far one of the most dire complex crises I’ve seen.”
How did the Yemen crisis start?
After Houthis stormed the capital in 2015, a war for control of the country erupted: the Houthis on one side, and government coalition on the other. The conflict plunged the already-poor country into a grave humanitarian crisis.
Over the course of four years, outside actors have aligned themselves with both sides, broadening this civil war into a regional conflict that has put all hope of a normal life on hold for millions of Yemenis.
Who is being impacted the most by the war in Yemen?
While no one in Yemen has been left untouched by war, the country’s women and children have been most affected, especially as malnutrition and disease spread. After four years of conflict, millions of people already struggling to meet their daily needs are now on the brink of starvation.
Malnutrition has a compounding effect on children — it has long-term impacts on growth and stunting and makes them more vulnerable to disease. Yemen’s health system, meanwhile, has been completely overwhelmed: hospitals struggle to acquire even basic medicines and supplies, while exhausted doctors and nurses work around the clock to meet never-ending need. Pregnant women often have no access to hospitals, forcing them to deliver at home with untrained professionals, leading to a high mortality rate.
According to the U.N., the number of people in acute need in Yemen today is 27% higher than last year, when it was already the worst crisis on earth. At least 17,700 civilians have been killed in the conflict, while an estimated 3.3 million people are displaced from their homes.
More than 3 million people require treatment for acute malnutrition — including 2 million children and 1 million pregnant and lactating women. A total of 17.8 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, while 19.7 million lack access to adequate healthcare.
In total, the U.N. estimates that $4 billion is needed to supply humanitarian aid to Yemen.2
“We’re talking about an exhausted health care system. The staff that are there are doing heroic work — working around the clock. But they don’t have enough workers to handle the cases.”
What is the greatest need?
With three-fourths of the population requiring assistance, the U.N. has called the needs in Yemen “unprecedented.” Malnutrition, cholera, poverty, displacement, child marriage and chronic unemployment are all widespread.
Even the most basic needs like food and clean water are at emergency levels: Nearly 18 million Yemenis lack access to clean water, sanitation or hygiene. The World Food Programme has said that its goal is to reach 12 million Yemenis with food assistance every month. Meanwhile, mass displacement and a crippled economy have jeopardized education for 3.7 million Yemeni children.3
Poor sanitation and waterborne diseases in Yemen have led to the worst cholera outbreak in modern history, with more than 1.2 million cases reported — 58% of them in children. More than 2,500 people have died due to cholera since 2017.4 Diphtheria, a vaccine-preventable disease, has spread as displaced children have been forced to go without vaccinations.
“I saw a doctor in the surgical unit who had just got off a 20-hour shift. How can a doctor work a 20-hour shift, rest for 4 hours, and come back and work another 18 to 20 hours?”
Ultimately, the greatest need for Yemen’s people is peace. Until both sides are able to forge a lasting peace agreement, conflict will remain the root problem beneath the massive humanitarian crisis. As U.N. humanitarian coordinator Lisa Grande put it, “Humanitarians cannot solve the conflict in Yemen, only politicians can.”5
Is there a path to peace?
Several rounds of U.N.-sponsored talks have failed to reach any deal to end the war. The last cease-fire agreement, reached in December 2018, would have meant a larger U.N. presence in Yemen and the reopening of a humanitarian corridor that would benefit millions of people. But clashes have continued, leading the U.N. to warn in May that peace could still be well off.
As the United Arab Emirates begins withdrawing forces from Yemen, however, some believe that momentum could be building for a diplomatic solution to the war. In an editorial for The Washington Post, the minister of state for foreign affairs of the U.A.E. said that its troop drawdown was meant to “create new momentum to end the conflict” and that the promise of peace was closer than at any point in four years.6 But for now, nothing concrete is in place.
What is Project HOPE doing to help?
In August, Project HOPE announced it was forming the Humanitarian Alliance for Yemen, alongside three other U.S.-based nonprofits: MedGlobal, Pure Hands and United Mission for Relief and Development. Together, the alliance will engage local Yemeni organizations to focus on the hardest-hit communities where malnutrition and disease are rampant. Thanks to this work, food, medical supplies, medicines and critical medical services will be delivered to the people who need it most.
In the longer term, the alliance will aim to empower Yemeni communities to support themselves with sustainable programs focusing on rebuilding the health infrastructure and the capacity of Yemeni health workers.
You can help!
The crisis in Yemen has put tens of millions of women, children and men at risk. You can help.
Project HOPE teams are at work in nearly 30 countries, responding to crises, helping people overcome diseases and empowering health workers with the training and tools they need to save more lives. Your support helps send volunteers and provides health care professionals with medicines, supplies and training wherever the need is greatest.
Your support saves lives. Help us reach people in Yemen and around the world today.