Yemen face structural, economic challenges
Written by Mona Zaid
Yemen has long faced structural, economic, social and security challenges, The war that started in 2015 has only exacerbated Yemen’s many previous woes.
The conflict, gradually escalating from a political impasse into full-scale hostilities, is quickly becoming intractable.
The war, which entered its fifth year , with an exceedingly complex political and military situation, is being worsened by an overwhelming humanitarian crisis that keeps growing in scale where almost 80% of the population is in need of aid, the peace process is currently at a deadlock while the war is deepening grievances, ripping the social fabric and shattering an already fragile state. The infighting and the Saudi-led military intervention has resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, with estimates varying from 10,000 at very least, to 60,000. It has got so bad that children are dying from malnutrition and disease – according to UN, a child dies every 10 minutes because of lack of basic medical attention.
The UN-led peace process has so far produced little in terms of a tangible roadmap to a resolution or significant results, there have been theories and arguments criticizing the process, but it seems the problems crippling progress revolve around a failure to fully understand the complex nature of the conflict – and choosing overly simplistic approaches.
Ten million people are one step away from famine and starvation. Two hundred and thirty of Yemen’s 333 districts are now food insecure, this includes 148 districts which are classified as phase 4 under the Integrated Phase Classification (IPC) system, 45 districts with families in IPC phase 5, and 37 districts which have global acute malnutrition rates above 15 percent.
For the first time in Yemen, assessments confirm the presence of catastrophic levels of hunger. At least 65,000 people are already in advanced stages of extreme food deprivation and 238,000 people in districts with IPC 5 areas will face similar conditions if food assistance is disrupted for even a few days.
Seven million, four hundred thousand people, nearly a quarter of the entire population, are malnourished, many acutely so. Acute malnutrition rates exceed the WHO emergency threshold of 15 percent in five governorates and close to 30 percent of all districts record critical levels of malnutrition.
Two million malnourished children under five and 1.1 million pregnant and lactating women require urgent treatment to survive.
Conditions are worsening at a nearly unprecedented rate. In 2014, prior to the conflict, 14.7 million people required assistance. In 2015, this number increased to 15.9 million; in 2016 to 21.2 million and in 2018 to 22.2 million. In 2019, 24.4 million people need assistance to survive.
The number of severely food-insecure districts has risen by 60 percent in one year from 107 districts in 2018, to 190 in 2019. In the last 12 months, the number of people unable to predict when they will next eat has risen by 13 percent and is expected to increase by 20 percent or more unless humanitarian operations are dramatically expanded .
The severity of suffering is shocking, the number of civilians in acute humanitarian need across all sectors has risen 27 percent since last year. In the health sector, the number has risen 49 percent to 14 million. In the shelter sector, the number has increased 73 percent; in protection 26 percent and in education 32 percent.
In every cluster, at least half of all the people in need are in acute need. Acute needs are highest in the conflict-impacted governorates of Hodeida, Sa’ada and Taizz, where more than 60 per cent of the population requires help to survive.
Only 22 percent of rural and 46 percent of urban populations are connected to partially functioning public water networks and less than 55 percent of the population has access to safe drinking water. In the education sector, 36 per cent of school-age girls and 24 per cent of boys do not attend school. Fifty one percent of teachers have not been paid since 2016, hundreds of schools have been destroyed and more than 1,500 have been damaged by air strikes or shelling.
After four years of continuous conflict, the humanitarian crisis in Yemen is the worst in the world. A higher percentage of people face death, hunger and disease than in any other country.
The degree of suffering is nearly unprecedented. Eighty percent of the entire population requires some form of humanitarian assistance and protection, an increase of 84 per cent since the conflict started in 2015. Twenty million Yemenis need help securing food and a staggering 14 million people are in acute humanitarian need.
In 2019, WFP is scaling up to provide 12 million people with monthly food assistance through direct food distributions or vouchers that people can use at retailers in areas where the markets are functioning. Each family of six gets a monthly ration of wheat flour, pulses, vegetable oil, sugar and salt.
Recent outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and diphtheria and an upsurge in fighting have exacerbated the already dire humanitarian situation in Yemen.
More than three million people have been displaced since the war started in 2015.
Warring parties have destroyed much of the country’s public infrastructure, including health facilities. Following the imposition of a blockade by the Saudi-led coalition (SLC) in 2015, import restrictions coupled with high inflation have crippled Yemenis’ access to healthcare and other essential services. Furthermore, many of the country’s 50,000 health workers have not been paid since August 2016 and have consequently left the public health system, forced to look for other sources of income.
The Yemeni health system is in a state of near-collapse: the population has very limited access to health facilities, either because they are damaged or not fully functioning, the direct consequences are the recent resurgence of outbreaks of preventable diseases such as measles, a highly contagious viral disease and one of the leading causes of death among young children.
The children of Yemen have been robbed of their basic rights to life, health and education. As the largest aid organization in Yemen, our teams are helping thousands of children get the vital care they need.
The rate of child malnutrition is one of the highest in the world and the nutrition situation continues to deteriorate.
A recent survey showed that almost one third of families have gaps in their diets, and hardly ever consume foods like pulses, vegetables, fruit, dairy products or meat. Some 3 million pregnant and nursing women and children under 5 need support to prevent or cure malnutrition.
WFP is providing food assistance for those most urgently in need of support in what has emerged as one of the world’s worst hunger crises. In 2019, WFP aims to provide 12 million people with food and nutrition assistance with 100% rations across Yemen.
More than half of all families are buying food on credit, up by almost 50 percent compared to pre-crisis levels. Salary payments for public sector employees have been suspended since September 2016, affecting nearly 30 percent of the Yemeni population who depend on government salaries and pensions.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is extremely fragile and any disruption in the pipeline of critical supplies such as food, fuel and medicines has the potential to bring millions of people closer to starvation and death. WFP calls for unimpeded access to reach those most in need and avert famine.
Hisham Al-Omeisy is a political and information analyst from Yemen
Aiming to feed 12 million of the most vulnerable people each month, WFP’s emergency response in Yemen is our largest anywhere in the world.
The current level of hunger in Yemen is unprecedented and is causing severe hardship for millions of people. Despite ongoing humanitarian assistance, 15.9 million people wake up hungry every day. It is estimated that, in the absence of food assistance, this number would go up to 20 million. The U.S.- and Saudi-backed war here has increased the price of food, cooking gas, and other fuel, but it is the disappearance of millions of jobs that has brought more than eight million people to the brink of starvation and turned Yemen into the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
There is sufficient food arriving in ports here, but endemic unemployment means that almost two-thirds of the population struggle to buy the food their families need.
In addition to the scale of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, the second reason I’ve focused on this country and the dire situation there is the fact that the leading actor in the crisis in Yemen is Saudi Arabia.
When we hear these statistics we can sometimes fall into a dispassionate or clinical or intellectual discussion, lacking a sense of urgency and forgetting we’re talking about real men, women and children in dire need of help.
But when you see pictures of children , we realize these are real people, real human beings, beings created in the image of God, who are starving to death because of obstacles to humanitarian assistance in the continuing war.
The views expressed in this article belong to the authors.