The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world, with over 80 per cent of the population estimated to be in need of humanitarian assistance. The protracted crisis has displaced millions of Yemenis, placing pressure on host communities with limited capacity to support displaced populations. Active conflict in multiple locations across the country, severe economic decline, food insecurity and the near collapse of essential public services continue to take an enormous toll on people in Yemen, exacerbating existing vulnerabilities and significantly impacting health and well-being.
The novel coronavirus 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic is placing further stress and suffering on vulnerable communities in Yemen. Due to limited testing capacity, humanitarian partners are operating under the assumption that COVID-19 reached Yemen in early 2020 and has been transmitted widely, with the first lab-tested positive cases in April. The COVID-19 response is placing additional pressure on Yemen’s health-care system, which is operating at roughly 50 per cent of its pre-conflict capacity. It is likely that the impact of COVID-19 will result in further deterioration of public systems and exacerbate negative outcomes related to food insecurity, water and sanitation, and public health, especially for those living in displacement sites.
Even with mitigation measures, it is estimated that 55 per cent of people in Yemen will be infected with COVID-19, 42,000 of who will die and 292,000 will require hospitalization.
Despite the conflict, migrants from the Horn of Africa continue to transit through Yemen in order to seek livelihoods in wealthy Gulf countries. In 2019, over 138,000 migrants crossed the Gulf of Aden to Yemen. This is the busiest maritime migration route in the world, exceeding crossings from North Africa to Europe on the Mediterranean Sea. The vast majority of those making this journey are Ethiopian nationals, primarily young men under the age of 25, and most have little prior knowledge of the dangers that they will face when crossing through Yemen.
Migrants in Yemen are vulnerable during every phase of their journey; in addition to the direct risks associated with the armed conflict, smuggling and trafficking networks prey on migrants with irregular status in Yemen, often subjecting them to serious abuse and exploitation.
With the unprecedented needs across the country, national and humanitarian capacities are stretched, and the operational environment continues to be increasingly challenging as frontlines shift and operational impediments persist. The shrinking operational space is marked by insecurity, bureaucratic challenges and power struggles. Up to 8.3 million people were estimated to have been affected by various access restrictions and constraints in 20193 .