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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, with a million people gripped by a deadly cholera outbreak. 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.

Attack on port city will lead to humanitarian catastrophe

  • Three years into the civil war in Yemen, more than 22 million innocent civilians are in need of humanitarian aid and 17 million lack reliable access to food.

  • Yemen’s main port city of Hodeidah, home to 400,000 people, is under attack by the forces of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The country relies on the port for 90% of its imports and for lifesaving aid.

  • The IRC condemned the attack and called on United Nations Security Council member states to put their full diplomatic weight behind establishing an immediate, effective ceasefire.

  • “The attack on Hodeidah is an attack on the political and diplomatic process to bring peace to Yemen," said IRC president and CEO David Miliband.

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Country facts
  • Population: 25.9 million
  • People displaced by crisis: 2.7 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?

Seventy-nine 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 on the international community to help achieve a lasting peace.

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