Three years of conflict in Yemen: The human toll

Humanitarian Crisis Action Against Hunger

Photo: Florian Seriex for Action Against Hunger, Yemen



“Today, if bombs don’t kill you, it’s illness, lack of food and healthcare or the exorbitant costs of necessities which will. This war is claiming the lives of countless indirect victims.”

Lapo Samigli, Action Against Hunger Country Director, Yemen

Yemen is the largest humanitarian crisis in the world, and it’s entirely manmade. The situation is grim: after three years of a war that officially killed nearly 10,000 people, and unofficially caused many others, the UN (United Nations) estimates that 80% of its people need humanitarian assistance.

Child malnutrition rates are also among the highest in the world and an estimated 17 million Yemenis are food insecure, that is to say lacking reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. Not to mention the equally unreliable and insufficient access to health services, drinking water, and sanitation.

The war is still ongoing – only half of health facilities are functional, and the country experienced more than 1 million cases of cholera in 2017 alone. Fleeing the conflict, more than 2 million people left their homes behind, with all that displacement entails: loss of property and income, as well as suffering due to stress, trauma, violence. Besides Yemenis, all who thought they would find a refuge there are suffering – the country has welcomed more than 280,000 refugees and asylum seekers.

Another problem further complicates the situation: the Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been imposing a commercial blockade since November 2017 in order to weaken the Houthi rebels who control, among others, the port of Hudaydah on the Red Sea, through which 75% of imports enter. This blockade has greatly contributed to the significant worsening of the living conditions of Yemenis in this country, which was already the poorest of the Arabian Peninsula, and was almost totally reliant on imports before the war.
Indeed, prices of essential goods have risen dramatically, and despite a partial reopening of the port earlier this year they are still well above pre-conflict levels. The price of a kilogram of rice has increased by 130% on average between January 2015 and January 2018, while a litre of fuel is between 53% and 141% more expensive depending on the region.

Beyond commercial goods, humanitarian aid is also affected by the blockade – even though some people depend solely on it to survive. Obstacles to the delivery of humanitarian aid are customary from parties to the conflict. Refusal of issuing visas, of customs clearance, of authorization to travel, to land, to dock: the brakes add to the insecurity suffered by humanitarian personnel and restrict access to vulnerable populations.



The conflict in Yemen has a global scale.

Previously two states, North Yemen and South Yemen, the country was united in 1990. However, the way power was distributed and populations were represented generated discontent. In 2011, during the Arab Spring movement, Yemen lived its own revolution. President Saleh, who had been in office since 1978, was overthrown by the vice-president, Hadi, in 2012. Saleh joined forces with the Houthis, a separatist group in North Yemen, and tried to regain control of the country. In 2014, the capital Sanaa was taken by rebel Houthis and Hadi took refuge with his government in Aden, in the south of the country. The country is split in two.

In March 2015, an international coalition led by Saudi Arabia, who was concerned about the advancement of the Houthis to the south and suspected them of being backed by Iran, launched a military operation to support the official Hadi government and put an end to the war. Three years later, military operations are mired, front lines have barely shifted for months, and the conflict seems deadlocked. In this war without winners, there are only victims, the 29 million Yemenis who are stranded in their own country. As for the great Western powers like France, the United States or the United Kingdom, they are complicit in supporting the coalition, providing arms and refusing to fully engage in the diplomatic resolution of the conflict.



Despite difficult access, with the support of Global Affairs Canada, Action Against Hunger provided emergency food security support for populations in Lahj and Abyan governorates of Yemen. Direct cash-transfers were provided to the most vulnerable families, with a focus on women-headed households, to allow them to purchase food and basic needs for their families. The use of direct cash transfers is a temporary solution used in crisis situations where displaced and affected populations have no source of revenue. Cash transfers are calculated based on the cost of a minimum food basket, approximately $140 per month. Moreover, local committees are established in each community to determine the most vulnerable households to receive support.


Photo: Florian Seriex for Action Against Hunger, Yemen

Ongoing follow-up is conducted by our local teams to monitor the use of funds. This approach, which directly helped 10,000 beneficiaries, gives families the decision-making power to address their most urgent needs. As a result of this project, 93% of the targeted households had reached acceptable levels of food consumption based on international standards, compared to only 11% before its beginning.

To read more about our response and listen to the stories of our staff on the ground, click here.