Yemen Crisis

Image © Khaled Abdullah, REUTERS

In 2017, the crisis in Yemen was declared the world’s largest humanitarian disaster by the United Nations. According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), “An estimated 80 percent of the population — 24 million people — require some form of humanitarian or protection assistance, including 14.3 million who are in acute need. Severity of needs is deepening, with the number of people in acute need a staggering 27% higher than last year. Two-thirds of all districts in the country are already pre-famine, and one-third face a convergence of multiple acute vulnerabilities.”


The roots of the crisis can be traced back to a failed political transition in 2011, when longtime authoritarian leader Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted by his deputy, Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, during the Arab Spring uprising. For the next few years, Hadi struggled with a number of problems, including attacks by jihadists, a separatist movement in the South, the continuing loyalty of the military to Saleh, as well as corruption, unemployment and food insecurity. The Houthi movement within Yemen used this instability to seize control over the northern region of the country and attempted to spread through the rest of Yemen, prompting Hadi to flee the country. Amid this growing influence, and fearing Iranian backing of the Houthi’s, Saudi Arabia and a number of other countries intervened. The region then erupted into years of prolonged conflict.


An estimated 2 million children are acutely malnourished, including almost 360,000 children under five years old who are struggling to survive.

Only half of the country's 3,500 medical facilities are fully-functioning, and almost 20 million people lack access to adequate healthcare. 18 million people do not have enough clean water or access to adequate sanitation.

Medics have struggled to deal with the largest cholera outbreak ever recorded, which has resulted in more than 2.2 million suspected cases and 3,895 related deaths.


The UN warned that the death toll from the coronavirus pandemic could "exceed the combined toll of war, disease, and hunger over the last five years.” It also issued a desperate plea for financial aid, saying its operations in the country, including vital health services, were severely underfunded. 

Around 20% of the country’s 333 districts have no medical doctors, and the numbers are getting thinner as the war and now the pandemic force doctors to leave the country, or avoid working for fear of infection. The country currently has only 500 ventilators (60 for children) and 700 intensive care unit beds. More than 30 of 41 major UN programs in Yemen will close in the next few weeks if additional funding is not available, and some 10,000 health care workers have already lost the UN payments that for many were their only salary. It has also had to halt health services for women giving birth in 150 hospitals

As the UNHCR says. the country’s health system “has in effect collapsed.”


Links/Ways to Help

Humanitarians who live and work in Yemen


Fatik al-Rodaini has been called a hero by Yemenis. He collects funds, buys food from local vendors, and creates batches of food (the term of art is "baskets") for families who his group has identified as needy. These days there is no shortage of need.

Yemen Hope and Relief

Ahmad Algohbary rescues children suffering from severe malnutrition. Families request his help, and he uses donated funds to transport and house them for weeks while their children are treated at nutrition clinics in major Yemeni cities.

Organizations whose mission is to help Yemenis

Yemen Aid

This group, founded by a Yemeni American, provides assistance and resources to Yemeni people, regardless of their race, political affiliation, ancestry or religion, in order to positively change, and ultimately save, lives.

Global NGOs that provide services in Yemen

International Rescue Committee 

The International Rescue Committee provides lifesaving emergency aid, clean water and medical care to millions of people in Yemen affected by violent conflict and a growing health crisis. The IRC is training heath workers, deploying mobile health teams and supporting health facilities with protective gear and proper water and sanitation services to fight COVID-19. It accepts donations for its Yemen mission here.

Médecins Sans Frontières (Doctors Without Borders) 

MSF first worked in Yemen in 1986 and has been consistently present in Yemen since 2007. MSF runs lifesaving medical programs across the country that answer to the needs of Yemeni people who struggle every day to access medical care due to the ongoing conflict and the COVID-19 outbreak. MSF currently works in 12 hospitals and health centers across the country and provides support to a further 20 health facilities in 13 governorates.

Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps has been in Yemen since 2010 providing vulnerable families and communities with access to food and clean drinking water. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Mercy Corps has continued to reach people impacted by the ongoing conflict with food assistance, clean water and hygiene support to help them stay healthy.

MOAS (Migrant Offshore Aid Station)

MOAS is currently working in Yemen with its local partner ADRA to supply specialist famine relief products and containers of pharmaceuticals and medical equipment to the Aden region. The supplies are distributed by its partners through the established health cluster and nutrition pipeline.  

World Food Program

The UN World Food Program (WFP) began providing food aid to Yemenis long before the current war. Its logo can be seen on sacks of flour in homes throughout the country. As conditions have worsened, WFP has dramatically stepped up its efforts, now reaching more than 12 million people per month. In addition, WFP runs malnutrition programs for women and children in more than half of Yemen’s districts, and has a history of helping other organizations respond to humanitarian needs in Yemen.

Advocacy groups that work to end the war in Yemen

Mwatana Organization for Human Rights

This group is headquartered in the Yemeni capital Sanaa. Mwatana programs defend and protect human rights. Its researchers conduct field investigations to detect and stop human rights violations. The organization also attempts to provide support and justice for victims, to hold accountable those in violation of human rights, and to help craft legislation and policies that prevent such violations.

Giving Room

International Care & Support Shirt

Proceeds from this pre-order will go to the Islamic Relief Fund, providing humanitarian aid to Yemen. The country has been hit hard by a prolonged civil war and more recently by the COVID-19 pandemic, both of which continue to overwhelm its healthcare system, food supply, and population.

For every $1 spent by the Islamic Relief Fund, 76¢ go directly into helping people in need, 6¢ towards administrative costs, and 18¢ go to raise more funds.


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