Yemen remains the world’s largest humanitarian crisis. 5 years into the devastating conflict, there is no end in sight. Millions of Yemenis continue to endure the consequences of intense fighting, food shortages, malnutrition, natural hazards and disease outbreaks, including the recent coronavirus outbreak. The conflict is marred by gross violations of international humanitarian law such as the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure. The EU is one of the major donors of humanitarian aid to Yemenis affected by the crisis.
Conflict across Yemen continues to endanger civilians, trigger displacement and damage civilian infrastructure such as hospitals. Imports of food, fuel and medicines remain restricted, leading to shortages and high prices. Humanitarian aid delivery continues to face impediments, and the situation is further worsened by a collapsing economy. In many parts of the country, water and power plants, factories, and markets have stopped functioning.
In early 2020, locusts and floods plagued several parts of the country. As concerns grow over the possible impact of the coronavirus outbreak, the UN has called for an immediate truce. On the ground, however, the fighting continues along different frontlines.
80% of the population - 24 million people - is in need of humanitarian assistance or protection. Currently, more than 14 million people are in acute need of health services and 10 million face severe food shortages. The crisis has taken a toll on the country’s infrastructure and basic public services. The public health situation is dire. Yemen has been struggling with a record cholera outbreak: between April 2017 and January 2020, the number of suspected cases totalled almost 2.3 million according to the World Health Organisation.
The Armed Conflict location & Event Data Project (ACLED) has recorded more than 100,000 fatalities since the start of the crisis, including over 18,400 civilians killed in direct attacks. 2019 was the second-deadliest year on record. The environment for humanitarian organisations has become increasingly constrained across Yemen in recent months. Humanitarians have suffered more violent incidents and faced obstacles to reach those most in need.
Since the beginning of the conflict in 2015, the European Union has allocated €484 million in humanitarian aid to the Yemen crisis. In 2019 and 2020, a total of €159 million was allocated to humanitarian organisations to support life-saving efforts.
The EU vital assistance includes food, healthcare, and education as well as water, shelter, and hygiene kits to conflict-affected areas and displaced populations. EU-funded humanitarian assistance also helps treat severely malnourished children, who are at high risk of dying. Due to the recent epidemics that occurred in Yemen, preparedness and response to epidemics was already a key focus in EU’s strategy for Yemen before the coronavirus outbreak. To address the cholera epidemic, the EU funds treatment centres and prevention activities. It also supports the emergency outbreak response in areas affected by measles and diphtheria.
As a result of the coronavirus threat, EU partner organisations are devising emergency preparedness plans. Despite the limitations on movements and air transportation, they are putting in place infection prevention and control measures. Where possible, they are favouring house-to-house calls rather than mass distributions of aid and awareness sessions.
The EU’s humanitarian partners continue to help populations in active war fronts in the north and south, often facing access constraints and security challenges. There is special attention for those who have suffered bodily harm and psychological shock. Among the internally displaced population, injured and disabled people 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 supports education projects that aim to rehabilitate classrooms and get children back to school.
In addition, the EU supports the United Nations Humanitarian Air Services (UNHAS), which provide reliable air and sea transportation to humanitarian aid workers. The service has been temporarily banned from operating due to the coronavirus pandemic.