Yemen is the largest single-nation humanitarian crisis
WITH 18.8 million people, nearly seven in 10 inhabitants in need of humanitarian aid, including 10.3 million requiring immediate assistance, Yemen is now the largest singlenation humanitarian crisis in the world, the UN informs while warning that the two-year war is rapidly pushing the country towards “social, economic and institutional collapse”.
More worrying, the conflict in Yemen and its economic consequences are driving the largest food security emergency in the world, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) has reported.
According to Ocha, more than 17 million people are “food insecure,” of whom 6.8 million are “severely food insecure” and require immediate food assistance, and 2 million acutely malnourished children.
The Yemeni population amounts to 27.4 million inhabitants.
“We can avert a humanitarian catastrophe, but need $2.1bn in funding to deliver crucial food, nutrition, health and other lifesaving assistance,” the UN estimates. UN, Sweden, Switzerland The world organisation plans to hold a highlevel pledging meeting for the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. Co-hosted by the governments of Switzerland and Sweden, the conference will take place at the UN in Geneva on April 25.
“The time is now to come together to prevent an impending humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen,” the UN said.
Ocha has also reminded that even before the conflict escalated in midMarch 2015, Yemen had faced “enormous levels” of humanitarian needs stemming from years of “poverty, under-development, environmental decline, intermittent conflict and weak rule of law”.
It has also stressed the need to protect civilians.
“The conduct of hostilities has been brutal. As of December 31, 2016, health facilities had reported nearly 48 000 casualties (including nearly 7 500 deaths) as a result of the conflict,” it said.
These figures significantly undercount the true extent of casualties given, diminished reporting capacity of health facilities and people’s difficulties accessing healthcare. Massive violations of human rights Ocha stressed the impact of this crisis in which “all parties appear to have committed violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law”.
Ongoing air strikes and fighting continue to inflict heavy casualties, damage public and private infrastructure and impede delivery of humanitarian assistance, it said, adding that parties to the conflict and their supporters have created a vast protection crisis in which millions of people face tremendous threats to their safety and well-being and the most vulnerable struggle to survive.
According to the UN humanitarian body, since March 2015, more than 3 million people have been displaced within Yemen.
Roughly 73% are living with host families or in rented accommodation, and 20% in collective centres or spontaneous settlements.
A substantial numbers of returnees live in damaged houses, unable to afford repairs and face serious protection risks. Economy is destroyed The Yemeni economy is being wilfully destroyed, Ocha says. Preliminary results of the disaster needs assessment estimated $19bn in infrastructure damage and other losses – equivalent to about half of the GDP in 2013.
“Parties to the conflict have targeted key economic infrastructure. Mainly air strikes – but also shelling and other attacks – have damaged or destroyed ports, roads, bridges, factories and markets. They have also imposed restrictions that disrupt the flow of private sector goods and humanitarian aid, including food and medicine,” it said.
For months, nearly all basic commodities have been only sporadically available in most locations, and basic commodity prices in December 2016 were on average 22% higher than before the crisis, reports Ocha.
At the same time, Yemen is experiencing a liquidity crisis in which people, traders and humanitarian partners struggle to transfer cash into and within the country.
Lenders have become increasingly reluctant to supply credit to Yemeni traders seeking to import essential goods. Basic commodities are scarcer and more expensive On this, it informs that the end result is an economic environment in which basic commodities are becoming scarcer and more expensive just as people’s livelihoods, opportunities and access to cash are receding or disappearing altogether.
And the humanitarian partners face growing pressure to compensate for the entire commercial sector, which is beyond both their capacity and appropriate role.
Essential basic services and the institutions that provide them are collapsing due to conflict, displacement and economic decline.
“Yemeni authorities report that Central Bank foreign exchange reserves dropped from $4.7bn in late 2014 to less than $1bn in September 2016, and the public budget deficit has grown by more than 50% to $2.2bn,” Ocha said.
In addition, salaries for health facility staff, teachers and other public sector workers are paid erratically, often leaving 1.25 million state employees and their 6.9 million dependents – nearly 30% of the population – without a regular income at a time of shortages and rising prices.
“As a result, social services provided by public institutions are collapsing while needs are surging,” it said.
In August 2016, the Ministry of Public Health and Population in Sana’a said it could no longer cover operational costs for health services and by October, only 45% of health facilities in the country were fully functional.
Absenteeism among key staff – doctors, nutrition counsellors, teachers – is reportedly rising as employees seek alternatives to provide for their families, according to the UN.
On top of pressure to compensate for a faltering commercial sector, humanitarian partners are increasingly fielding calls to fill gaps created by collapsing public institutions. 90% of food imported – 8 million lost livelihoods According to Ocha, Yemen relies on imports for more than 90% of its staple food and nearly all fuel and medicine.
Authorities in Sana’a and other areas also at times deny or delay clearances for humanitarian activities, including movement requests for assessments or aid delivery.
Restrictions on workshops, humanitarian data collection and information sharing have also been intermittently introduced and rescinded.
These restrictions are at times resolved through dialogue, but the time lost represents an unacceptable burden for people who desperately need assistance. Positive developments since November 2016 indicate that these restrictions may substantially improve in the immediate coming period.
An estimated 8 million Yemenis have lost their livelihoods or are living in communities with minimal to no basic services, the UN says, adding that about 2 million school-age children are out of school.
Yemen is the second-largest country on the Arabian peninsula, occupying nearly 528 000km², and its coastline stretches for about 2 000km. – IPS
STOCKING UP: The UN needs more than $2bn to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in the southern Arabian country of Yemen, which is ravaged by conflict.