Yemen crisis

Yemen has been devastated by civil war, food shortages, and COVID-19 – but Malak has not lost hope

Millions of people are in need of humanitarian assistance as they struggle to survive the impacts of war, economic collapse, food shortages, cholera, and now COVID-19.

Yemen overview: 24 million people in need of humanitarian assistance

The scale of the need is staggering: after five years of conflict, an estimated 24 million people need humanitarian assistance.

  • 20 million are going short of food – with more than 3 million people experiencing either crisis or emergency food insecurity, meaning that they struggle to find enough food and are often acutely malnourished. Acute malnutrition rates among children under five are the highest ever recorded in parts of Yemen, with a 10 per cent increase being seen in 2020.
  • Food and fuel prices have risen out of the reach of most people, causing acute malnutrition for millions; in particular this affects more than 2 million children and over 1 million pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • 4 million people have been displaced from their homes.
  • 20 million people are in need of water, sanitation, and hygiene services.
  • An ongoing cholera epidemic has caused 87,000 suspected cases in 2020.

Now the coronavirus pandemic has arrived. Aaron Brent, CARE Yemen country director, says:

We know how much COVID-19 has affected people’s lives all around the world and forced people into difficult economic situations, isolation, and I would just ask them, while they’re going through this, to think of the Yemeni people, who have been in that exact same position for five years.

What CARE is doing

CARE reaches 2.8 million people a year across 13 governorates and 95 districts in Yemen. We work in food security and livelihoods, WASH (water, sanitation, and hygiene), reproductive health, women’s economic empowerment, and education and training.

We are distributing food to families in need; providing cash to families so they can purchase for themselves the food and other supplies they need; rehabilitating water sources and providing access to safe water; providing hygiene kits for women; and providing livelihoods training and support to women.

Overview of CARE's work in Yemen (infographic)

A complex emergency

Yemen is a country already battered by conflict, hunger, and natural disasters including drought and flooding. Now the coronavirus pandemic has arrived. So far in 2020, we have reached a quarter of a million people with COVID-19 prevention activities.

Suha Basharen, gender specialist for CARE Yemen, says:

COVID in Yemen is a crisis on a crisis on a crisis.

Watch this video in which she describes how CARE is responding to people’s multiple needs in this complex emergency:

CARE’s team in Yemen

The ongoing conflict makes this an extremely difficult environment in which to work – but CARE is one of the few international aid agencies with an established presence in Yemen, where we have worked since 1993. We are focusing on making sure that people in the hardest-hit and most hard-to-reach areas have access to emergency supplies and assistance with meeting their basic needs, including food and water. The near-collapse of public services – only 45% of health facilities in Yemen remain, with limited functionality – means that we are also providing sanitation, hygiene, and livelihoods support.

Our response to COVID-19 includes providing providing PPE to ensure medical professionals can remain safe, using local radio and TV to reach most of the population with health and safety messaging, providing hygiene kits and training on handwashing and protection to communities, and supporting local authorities in reconnecting and upgrading water and sewage networks.Suha said:

We support hospitals that have reproductive health workers and hospitals which have [COVID] isolation centres by providing them with water supplies directly or by fixing their water supply network.

What’s it like for women and girls?

Women have limited participation in society and are considered to have a lower status than men. The breakdown of safe water supplies, which means women and girls have to travel long distances to collect water, is also a cause for concern as it makes women and girls more vulnerable to sexual violence. Overcrowding in shelters also makes women and girls more vulnerable to violence.

With many damaged and destroyed healthcare facilities and lack of supplies, an estimated half a million pregnant women cannot access desperately needed medical treatment.

As food becomes more scarce, a common coping mechanism for women in Yemen is to eat less while maintaining their domestic workload. Women are also facing increased responsibilities since the onset of the conflict: 30 per cent of displaced women are heading their families, and the vast majority have no regular income to help meet their family's needs.

Women and girls in Yemen infographic

The COVID-19 pandemic combined with existing problems caused by continued conflict and collapsing public services disproportionately impacts Yemeni women and girls – especially widowed women, many of whom are now out of work. Arwa works as a housemaid in her village, but has lost her income due to COVID-19. She says:

People are afraid. They don’t ask me to help them with the housework because they are isolating themselves.

Some nights my children cry because they are hungry, but I can’t do anything. I feel useless.

Your support can make a difference

Despite the challenges, Suha Basharen says the Yemeni people have not given up:

With all these crises that people are facing, Yemeni people are still trying to find the means to survive and are supporting each other.

Watch this video to see how donations from the UK public to the Disasters Emergency Committee are helping CARE to support people in Yemen:

Please donate now

Page updated 4 November 2020