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A mother and her two young children seated outdoors in Yemen
Civilians under siege

Yemen Crisis Watch

Yemen is facing the largest humanitarian crisis of our time: two-thirds of the population is at risk of starvation. 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.

More weapons is the last thing Yemen needs

  • The IRC is alarmed by the news of a potential new round of U.S. arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. Such a decision threatens to add fuel to the fire of the war and humanitarian crisis in Yemen.

  • “The priority in Yemen today is more diplomacy not more weapons,” said IRC president and CEO David Miliband. "More weapons are the last thing that Yemen needs."

  • U.S. arms supplies have been central to the 19,000 Saudi and Emirati-led Coalition airstrikes since the start of the conflict—more than 100 strikes a day for four years.

  • Last year, one third of these strikes hit non-military targets—killing civilians and damaging and destroying infrastructure that Yemenis rely on to survive.

  • "We urge Congress to act with the full scope of its authority to stop these sales," said Miliband.

Read our latest statement
Country facts
  • Population: 25.9 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 3.3 million
  • Rank in Human Development Index: 160 of 188
IRC response
  • Started work in Yemen: 2012

Yemen crisis briefing

Yemen, located on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is plagued by widespread violence, poverty, malnutrition and cholera, amounting to one of the world's most severe humanitarian crises. The IRC provides lifesaving assistance and emergency aid.

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What caused the current crisis in Yemen?

In 2015, Saudi Arabia and its allies began a military intervention in Yemen as part of an effort to unseat the rebel Houthis and restore former President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power. More than 7,000 people have been killed and 2.7 million uprooted as a result of this conflict, according to the U.N.

Even before the current crisis, Yemen’s malnutrition rate ranked as one of the world’s worst, and more than half of its population lacks access to drinking water. Yemen was also battered by its first-ever tropical cyclone in November 2015.

There have been several failed attempts to halt this conflict and safely provide aid to those in need. Yemen remains the Arab world’s poorest country.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Yemen?

Eighty percent of Yemen’s population is in need of emergency relief and humanitarian assistance.

Continued fighting prevents shipments of food and fuel from entering the country. Hospitals do not have diesel fuel to operate generators during power cuts, and ambulances have run out of gasoline. Stocks of antibiotics and critical medical supplies have been depleted.

Hundreds of thousands of people are suffering from cholera after a massive outbreak of the life-threatening disease. Cholera has the deadliest impact on the most vulnerable Yemenis, including many children who are already suffering from malnutrition. The IRC is supporting health facilities with drugs and medical supplies and training staff in cholera treatment. We’re also working to improve water and sanitation systems.

As the violence escalates, Yemen remains on the brink of catastrophe.

How does the IRC help in Yemen?

The IRC’s mission is to help people whose lives and livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster to survive, recover and gain control of their future.

We first began assisting people in Yemen in 2012, providing clean water and emergency aid to villages in the south of the country. Due to escalating violence, we suspended relief programs in May 2015 but were able to resume lifesaving operations one month later.

The IRC is continuing our efforts in the Abyan, Lahj, Aldale’a, Sana’a governorates by:

  • providing health, nutrition, water and sanitation services to more than a quarter-million people;
  • delivering essential drugs and medical supplies to hospitals;
  • training health staff on cholera treament;
  • calling for direct humanitarian air service;
  • calling for a country-wide ceasefire and calling on the international community to help achieve a lasting peace.

What can I do to help?

Call Congress: A growing number of Members of Congress are recognizing that U.S. military support is fueling the conflict in Yemen and increasing civilian suffering, and they have the power to stop it. Make your voice heard by calling Congress at (202) 224-3121 to insist the U.S. end its military support and use its leverage to push for an inclusive peace agreement to end the war.

Donate: Make a tax-deductible donation to support the IRC. We are on the ground saving children and families from malnutrition and life-threatening diseases. We are providing clean water, medicine, nutrition services and other urgent aid to as many people as possible. Your gift will help us as we work to save lives in Yemen and in countries around the world. 

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