Marginal improvements in a restricted and complex operating environment
Humanitarian needs and cluster achievements
Uptick in hostilities and civilian casualties in third quarter of 2020
Humanitarian situation continues its downward spiral
The humanitarian situation has deteriorated further in 2020, driven by escalating conflict, an economic crisis and currency collapse and exacerbated by torrential rains and flooding, COVID-19 and a fuel crisis. The operating environment remained restricted while the humanitarian response faces a huge funding shortfall. With more than 24 million people – 80 per cent of the country’s population – in need of some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, Yemen remains the world's worst humanitarian crisis.
At its core, the humanitarian situation is driven by conflict, which intensified in 2020 causing civilian casualties and displacement – over 156,000 people have been displaced this year alone, adding to the 3.6 million existing internally displaced persons (IDPs). Some of the highest levels of vulnerability are concentrated in IDP sites where few services are available. An estimated 422,000 migrants, asylum-seekers and refugees in Yemen are at extreme risk and an estimated 138,000 are completely reliant on aid.
Between April and August 2020, heavy rains and flooding devastated communities and IDP sites. Locust infestations are expected to cause damage and losses worth US$222 million to staple crops, animals and livestock. There are acute WASH deficits in 54 districts while 46 districts are at high risk of cholera.
Another key driver of the worsening humanitarian situation is the economy, which has collapsed further this year. A fuel crisis contributed to increased basic commodity prices and hindered access to basic services. By end of September, the Yemeni rial had depreciated to an all-time low of YER850/US$ in southern governorates as foreign reserves dried up. Remittances from Yemenis abroad, the largest source of foreign exchange, dropped by up to 70 per cent as a result of the COVID-19 global downturn, leaving more of the population unable to afford essentials. Aside of the economic impact of COVID-19, Yemen continues to grapple with the health impact of the virus – nearly six years of war have left the population with reduced levels of immunity and a decimated health sector.
By mid-2020, Yemen had returned to alarming levels of food insecurity, and a catastrophic food security crisis was looming. A partial Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) analysis published of southern governorates in July 2020, warned that economic shocks, conflict, floods, locusts and COVID-19 could reverse food security gains in Yemen. The report indicated that by December 2020, the population facing high levels of acute food insecurity (IPC Phase 3 and above) would increase from 2 million to 3.2 million people (40 per cent of the population analyzed) unless aid was maintained at 2019 levels.
A second IPC report in October 2020 covering the south of the country, highlighted how acute malnutrition rates among children under age 5 are now the highest ever recorded in some districts. The analysis reveals a near 10 per cent increase in cases of acute malnutrition this year. The greatest increase is in cases of young children suffering from severe acute malnutrition (SAM) which has increased by 15.5 per cent, leaving at least 98,000 children under age 5 at high risk of dying without urgent treatment.
“We’ve been warning since July that Yemen is on the brink of a catastrophic food security crisis. If the war doesn’t end now, we are nearing an irreversible situation and risk losing an entire generation of Yemen’s young children,” said Ms. Lise Grande, the Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen in a statement on 27 October. “The data we are releasing today confirms that acute malnutrition among children is hitting the highest levels we have seen since the war started.”
“For the past two years, we’ve been able to rollback the worst famine in a generation. We’ve done this by providing massive amounts of humanitarian assistance and working with authorities to stabilize the economic factors driving the crisis,” said Ms. Grande. “It’s heartbreaking that when people need us the most, we can’t do what’s necessary because we don’t have funding.”