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  • Writer's pictureSovena Ngeth

Yemen 2021: The Worst Humanitarian Crisis in the World

Updated: May 22, 2021

Yemeni children standing in the middle of war rubble.
Yemeni children standing in the middle of war rubble. (Agence France-Presse)

Where is Yemen?

Yemen is a country in the Middle East, located south of Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iraq. The country is about the size of Sweden and is home to 27 million people. The official language is Arabic, and the major religion is Islam.

After many years of fighting due to different beliefs, South Yemen and North Yemen joined together in 1990 as Yemen we know today. Unfortunately, the fighting did not stop, and currently, there is another civil war taking place.

What is Happening in Yemen?

The country's humanitarian crisis is currently the worst in the world due to widespread famine, disease, and attacks on civilians.

Yemen was already one of the Arab's world poorest countries and continues its downfall due to its civil war. Fighting between the government and anti-government fighters continued after Yemen became one. Many people were unhappy with President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and supported the rebel forces, which Iran also backed. He fled to Saudi Arabia, and a group of nine countries joined together to support the Yemen government. In March 2015, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates led a military coalition against Houthi-led forces, the anti-government fighters, that took over Yemen's capital. They aimed to remove power from the Houthi rebels and reinstate the government. They began to bomb Yemen, and the U.S., U.K., and France supported these strikes. However, the government remains in exile, and the Houthi rebels control the large areas.

Six years have passed since the armed conflict has started, and it has resulted in the deaths of over 18,400 civilians. Besides, Yemen is experiencing the world's worst food security crisis; 2/3 of the population is requiring food assistance. More than 3.5 million people have been forced out of their homes and cannot leave the country due to blocked borders. An estimated 12 million children are affected, and the number increased exponentially with the battle against COVID-19 globally. COVID-19 has also disrupted supply chains and global economies, leading to a cutback on Yemen's critical aid sources from other countries. U.N. officials say that deaths from the coronavirus could exceed all wartime fatalities. Almost 20% of the country's 333 districts have absolutely no doctors, and the mortality rate is five times the global average.

Al-Qaeda, an Islamist militant group, affiliates in the region have been able to expand their influence due to the war's chaos. They have captured the coastal city of Mukalla and released around 300 inmates who are believed to be members of al-Qaeda. Also, they have provided some Yemenis with security and public services during this crisis, which strengthened support for the group.

Both Houthi and coalition forces violated humanitarian law by harming civilians. This included the destruction of hospitals receiving international aid and doctors, torturing, unlawful arrests, and forced kidnappings and disappearances from both sides. The Saudi-led coalition has conducted between 20,000 to 60,000 airstrikes since 2015, and about a third of all airstrikes have hit residential homes, hospitals, schools, weddings, farms, food stores, mosques, and water wells. Houthi authorities, as well as UAE-backed STC, are severely restricting the delivery of humanitarian aid. Both sides continue to fire mortars, rockets, and missiles that have killed and wounded civilians and damaged critical buildings such as health facilities. It has also been reported that both the Saudi-led coalition and Houthi forces have recruited children as soldiers. Many are being used as spies, recruiters of other children, guards, and medics.

Children are suffering immensely from armed conflict. Over 50% of Yemeni children have experienced irreversible stunted growth, and 10 million children do not have adequate water and sanitation access. In 2017, there was an outbreak of cholera, a dangerous disease found in filthy water.

It has been deemed the largest humanitarian crisis globally, with over 24 million people (80% of the population) in need of humanitarian assistance.

What Is Being Done Now?

Currently, aid has been severely cut and underfunded. The war devastated many Yemen civilians and has caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis to this day. There is a significant need for food, water, and aid; however, deliveries are restricted as the fighting continues. Many Yemen civilians do not have the essentials they need to live. Over 20 million of the population cannot afford to eat. 400,000 Yemeni children under five could die from acute malnutrition. Critical aid has been cut at almost 300 health centers across Yemen due to a lack of funding.

The United Nations hoped to raise $3.85 billion to prevent large-scale famine in Yemen, but there has been a $2 billion aid shortfall. Aid has been dropping drastically due to the coronavirus pandemic, which caused many humanitarian programs to close.

How Can I Help?

Many organizations are rallying to save Yemen from preventable disasters such as famine.

The International Rescue Committee has been providing lifesaving assistance and emergency aid since 2012. However, with the $2 billion shortfalls, they have not delivered service on a larger scale. They are asking for assistance in financial support here.

Save The Children is currently the most extensive aid organization in Yemen and asks for donations to assist children in need.

UNICEF is on the ground across Yemen to save children, help them cope with the impact of war, and assist them with their recovery. UNICEF has shipped critical personal protective equipment and rehabilitated damaged schools to establish safe learning spaces. UNICEF is also in need of financial assistance to continue its efforts.

In these trying times, volunteers are urged not to travel to Yemen due to COVID-19, terrorism, and civil unrest of the armed conflicts. The best way to help Yemen right now is by donating to humanitarian aid organizations, volunteering from home, and sending goods. Online volunteering includes mapping data for safe transport routes and translating messages. Volunteers can donate goods to charity shops, which pass on their proceeds to humanitarian charities.

Donations matter. We cannot ignore Yemen in its time of need.



Sovena Ngeth is a Philadelphia-based writer who is passionate about using her words for change. She is also a content writer at the International Youth Organization for Peace and Sustainability.

Inputs and Edits by Aswin Raghav R.


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