Entering the seventh year of conflict, Yemen remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. Millions of Yemenis are left displaced, destitute and hungry. Agencies are warning the window to prevent famine in 2021 is closing as the crisis persists and funding goes down. To avert a worst-case scenario, there is a need to increase aid funds, give humanitarian agencies unrestricted access to people in need, and address the political and economic drivers of the crisis. The EU has maintained its level of humanitarian support to Yemen.
Conflict across Yemen continues to endanger civilians, trigger displacement and damage infrastructures such as hospitals and schools. Imports of food, fuel and medicines are restricted, leading to shortages and high prices. Humanitarian aid continues to face serious impediments.
In 2020, locusts and floods affected local food production in several areas. The coronavirus pandemic has stretched health services to the limit and restricted access to markets. Some 80% of the population require humanitarian assistance or protection. Around 13.5 million people face severe food shortages. This number may rise to 16.2 million in 2021, including 5 million people in an emergency, if no urgent action is taken.
Famine-like conditions have returned to the country for the first time in 2 years, mostly in areas with conflict, displacement and limited humanitarian access (Al Jawf, Hajjah and Amran). Acute malnutrition rates among children under 5 are the highest ever recorded, with more than half a million cases in southern districts.
The public health system has struggled to cope with outbreaks such as coronavirus and one of the worst cholera epidemics in recent history. Work of humanitarian organisations is extremely difficult as they regularly suffer violent incidents and face many impediments to reach those in need.
In 2021, the EU has allocated €95 million in humanitarian aid for those affected by conflict and famine. Since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, the European Union has contributed €981 million to respond to the crisis in Yemen, including €648 million in humanitarian aid and €318 million in development assistance.
The EU’s vital support includes food assistance, healthcare, and education as well as water, shelter, and improved hygiene services to conflict-affected areas and displaced populations. Emergency assistance and basic health care are also being provided to migrants who transit through Yemen on their way to Saudi Arabia. Due to coronavirus measures, many find themselves stranded and exposed to hardship and abuse in a country at war.
Given the worrying food security situation in 2020, the EU released over €50 million for food assistance, including cash transfers, and nutrition support activities. These actions assist millions of Yemenis acutely food insecure and support the treatment of severely malnourished children, who are at high risk of dying. Due to recent epidemics such as cholera, preparedness and response to outbreaks was already a key focus before the coronavirus pandemic. The EU has funded cholera prevention and treatment centres as well as the response to measles and diphtheria outbreaks. EU humanitarian aid also funds quick impact projects, repairing and renovating water and sanitation infrastructure to reduce illness and death from waterborne diseases.
To avoid the spead of COVID-19, EU partner organisations have put in place infection, prevention and control measures. This includes increased awareness and piloted a community shielding approach to protect those most vulnerable to severe infection among displaced populations.
EU humanitarian partners continue to help populations in active war fronts in the north and south of the country, but often face access constraints and security challenges. They help improve living conditions in the numerous displacement camps across the country by upgrading shelter, electricity, water and sanitation, and also ensure people have access to food, education and healthcare. There is special attention for people who have suffered bodily harm and psychological shock. The injured and disabled are assisted with comprehensive rehabilitation services.
Yemen’s already fragile education system has further suffered from the consequences of war. According to the UN, 1 in 5 schools can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict. The EU funds education projects that aim to rehabilitate classrooms and get children back to school.
Besides, EU support to the United Nations Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS) provides humanitarian aid workers with reliable air and sea transportation.