SEATTLE, Washington — In March 2015, civil war broke out in Yemen. Prior to the conflict, more than half the population was already living in poverty. Today, more than 80 percent of Yemenis are in extreme need of humanitarian assistance. While some organizations have made big promises, international support and humanitarian aid to Yemen must improve in order to save the Yemeni people.
Yemen has long been classified as a Least Developed Country, and the poorest in the Arab region. The conflict, however, has escalated these conditions. Since the onset of war, at least 10,000 people have died and three million have been displaced. At least eight million are lacking food security, and 370,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition.
In the face of ongoing mass suffering, there have been promising developments in the international humanitarian response. The U.N. has called upon its members to provide 1.8 billion dollars’ worth of humanitarian aid to Yemen. While only 12 percent was funded in the first year of the conflict, 41 percent of funds was provided between March and September 2016.
The World Bank and U.N. Development Program are partnering to support hundreds of thousands of Yemeni people with a 110 million-dollar emergency project. The initiative will support cash-for-work programs, improve public service delivery, and repair critical infrastructure. The program is expected to benefit 380,000 people.
In the fiscal year 2016, USAID provided more than $327.5 million for humanitarian programs in Yemen. The organization provided money for nutrition-screening devices and other health initiatives. USAID is supported by the World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF in providing medical supplies, particularly for children aged five and younger.
In addition to the U.N. call for funding, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has made a regional appeal for 150 million dollars in humanitarian relief. The IOM recognized that Yemen’s use as a transit country for migration further complicated the situation and had driven more people into poverty. About 10,000 migrants enter Yemen every month only to find themselves trapped in conflict, exploited, or abused by criminal networks. The IOM’s plan is a pre-emptive effort to prevent new cases of poverty, working to ease migration and assist migrants through safe and legal channels.
The United Arab Emirates (U.A.E.) has been a significant regional player in providing aid. The U.A.E. partnered with the WHO to restore 20 hospitals and provide vaccines to 700,000 women and children. The U.A.E. also supplied funds to rebuild schools and provide educational supplies.
A major obstacle for international humanitarian response in Yemen has been inaccessibility. The October 19 ceasefire helped create access for aid on a temporary basis, but renewed fighting was reported as early as October 22. Continued access will be a key element in relieving the poverty and suffering induced by the conflict.
With current funding, the U.N. seeks to reach 125,000 people. Prior to the aforementioned ceasefire, 12,309 people were provided with U.N. aid. Although only 41 percent of the U.N. appeal funds was provided as of September 2016, the commitments of USAID, the U.N., the U.A.E., and other development agencies show promise. In order to ensure the Yemeni people are not forgotten or neglected, regional and international development players must commit to global appeals for humanitarian aid to Yemen and improve their national response.
– McKenna Lux