At the start of 2021, Yemen is at risk of descending into deeper crisis. Recognized as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis for the past four years, the country is now hurtling towards the worst famine the world has seen in decades. Unprecedented levels of humanitarian assistance helped to avert a famine and other disasters in 2019, yet the underlying drivers of the crisis persist. As the devastating armed conflict continues, vulnerable populations are increasingly unable to cope.
Today in Yemen, 20.7 million people, two out of every three Yemenis, need some form of humanitarian and protection assistance. Of these, 12.1 million people are in acute need. More than half of the population are facing acute levels of food insecurity. Cases of acute malnutrition among children under five are the greatest ever recorded. Preventable disease is pervasive, and morbidity and mortality are increasing.
Health partners are doing everything they can to mitigate and address the spread of COVID-19, while safeguarding the existing health system from collapse.
The conflict continues to devastate families, put civilians at grave risk and cause the death and injury of men, women, girls and boys. Since its start, the conflict has displaced over 4 million people, making Yemen the fourth biggest internal displacement crisis in the world.
The humanitarian situation was aggravated in 2020 by escalating conflict, the COVID-19 pandemic, disease outbreaks, torrential rains and flooding, a desert locust plague, economic collapse, a fuel crisis across northern governorates and reduced humanitarian aid. Alarming levels of food insecurity and acute malnutrition returned, exacerbated by the economic downturn spurred by COVID-19. The operating environment was extremely restricted, characterized by extensive access challenges and insecurity that hindered a principled aid operation.
While system-wide efforts resulted in improvements, work is ongoing to ensure a principled response and allow humanitarians to reach the people most in need. When principled delivery is at risk, agencies will continue to calibrate assistance to reduce risk levels and strengthen measures to ensure aid goes where it should.
Last year, the response was significantly underfunded, forcing key programmes to close or reduce. By the end of January 2021, only US$ 1.9 billion, 56 per cent of the $3.38 billion needed for the 2020 response, had been received. As a result, hungry families received only half as much food as they should have and facilities providing water, sanitation and health services stopped delivering. In past years, generous donor contributions enabled the massive scale-up of humanitarian assistance in Yemen and the rollback of catastrophic levels of food insecurity, cholera and other humanitarian needs. For 2021, indications are that with escalating conflict, a deteriorating economic situation and worsening livelihood, food insecurity and nutrition conditions, needs will only increase.
Shocks such as disease outbreaks, natural hazards and a potential oil spill from the FSO Safer threaten to cause more suffering for millions of Yemenis. If adequate funding is not received this year, gains achieved will be reversed, and Yemen will plunge even further into crisis.
Despite immense challenges, partners delivered assistance and protection support to up to 10.7 million people per month in 2020. By the end of the year, after extensive advocacy with the authorities, humanitarian agencies were able to finalize some key needs assessments that had been long delayed. This made possible the generation of a strong evidence base for the 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview, on which this Humanitarian Response Plan is based.
This plan is the first in Yemen to be based on the enhanced Humanitarian Programme Cycle approach, which allows for stronger links between needs and response, increased focused on multi-sector challenges and the prioritization of inclusivity. The 2021 Humanitarian Needs Overview identified which groups face the highest risks and in which parts of the country people are suffering most. Recognizing that vulnerable groups are disproportionately affected by the crisis, this response plan puts their needs front and centre. Understanding that distinct groups are affected differently by the crisis, the plan also outlines response approaches targeted to address the specific needs and risks they face.
The 2021 HRP sets out humanitarian agencies’ strategic objectives and funding requirements for the year. Collectively, the humanitarian community is seeking $3.85 billion to provide principled assistance to 16 million people. The response in 2021 is centred around three strategic objectives: 1) preventing disease outbreaks and reducing morbidity and mortality, 2) preventing famine, malnutrition and restoring livelihoods and 3) protecting and assisting civilians. Frontline partners are the backbone of the operation and are included in the 167 partners who will implement the response, with a focus on displaced and marginalized communities. As the plan is implemented, enhanced partnership of the humanitarian community with the Government of Yemen and the Ansar Allah authorities will be essential.
Those reading this plan are encouraged consider individual Yemenis, especially the country’s most vulnerable, who are starving, suffering from disease and bearing the brunt of almost six years of protracted armed conflict. Without sufficient support, life-saving programmes will be cut, and the consequences for the people of Yemen will be devastating. While ultimately, the only way to end the crisis in Yemen is through a lasting and inclusive peace, right now there is an opportunity to make a difference. Donors are encouraged to seize the opportunity to contribute generously to meet the needs of Yemenis everywhere in the country and help them survive another year.