A recent survey done by the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Yemen found that Yemenis surveyed are more worried about hunger than COVID-19. While COVID-19 continues to spread unchecked throughout Yemen, the country has seen a major rise in the cost of food and other basic necessities, causing many Yemenis to resort to harmful practices like reducing food consumption and even some families sending their children to work or beg to be able to buy food. The international community must act now to save the lives of millions of Yemenis. 

COVID-19 has worsened an already collapsed economy and further reduced access to healthcare for millions of civilians in Yemen - already one of the most difficult places in the world to get healthcare - amongst increasing conflict and airstrikes and dwindling humanitarian funding. Food rations for people living in north Yemen have already been halved since April, and an additional 5 million people will lose access to vital food assistance in November without more funding. A lack of testing in Yemen means COVID-19 continues to spread undetected. 

Ahead of Tuesday’s UN Security Council briefing on Yemen, the IRC calls on the Council to urgently demand an immediate nationwide ceasefire and urge parties to the negotiating table, increase funding to the humanitarian response plan, and ensure aid flows unabated nationwide to those most in need. Additionally, in line with Council resolution 2417, the UN Secretary General should provide information to Council members on the humanitarian situation in Yemen with a particular focus on the risk of conflict‑induced famine and widespread food insecurity.  

Tamuna Sabadze, Yemen Country Director at the IRC said,

“The nightmare Yemenis are living through continues to get worse with each passing day. The next three months are critical to the survival of millions. Lives can be saved if funding starts to flow and conflict reduces, but action is needed now. It is hard to imagine a starker call to action for the international community. 

“With COVID-19 spreading unchecked, a serious reduction in humanitarian funding, and increasing fighting and airstrikes, Yemen is experiencing a triple emergency. This survey brings to life the terrible economic impacts COVID-19 is having on the lives of the world’s most vulnerable. Those surveyed indicated their top concerns are rising food prices and the loss of their income, even more than getting sick, showing that for many vulnerable people, the economic impact COVID-19 is having on people’s lives is causing more harm than the disease itself.

“In order to feed their families, respondents indicated they have had to take on debts which they cannot afford to repay, reduce the amount of food they are consuming, sell off assets like land or livestock, and some have even had to send their children to work or to beg. Without an immediate end to this war, Yemenis will continue to suffer at the hands of a conflict they want nothing to do with. This war is a stain on the global conscience and must be brought to an end now to avert further disaster. The Yemeni people want peace -  to be able to raise and educate their children so they can have a better life free from war, violence and disease.

“The UN Security Council must do its part to bring an end to the war and help alleviate the unimaginable and widespread suffering happening on its watch. Council members must throw their diplomatic heft behind efforts to reach a political solution, and increase humanitarian funding to meet ever more acute needs across Yemen. FInally, the US, UK and France must end military support and intelligence to all parties involved in this immoral conflict.” 

The IRC has been working in Yemen since 2012 and rapidly scaled our programming in 2015 to address greater humanitarian needs caused by the conflict. While the ongoing conflict, COVID-19 pandemic, and restriction of air and seaports create challenges to our operations, the IRC has maintained access to affected populations and continues to provide life-saving healthcare, economic empowerment, women’s protection and empowerment and education programming.

The IRC has launched a USD $30 million appeal to help us mitigate the spread of coronavirus among the world’s most vulnerable populations. We are working across three key areas: to mitigate and respond to the spread of coronavirus within vulnerable communities; protect IRC staff; and ensure the continuation of our life-saving programming as much as possible across more than 40 countries worldwide.