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Press Release

Failure to end civil war in Yemen could cost $29 billion

Almost one year since the Stockholm agreement, the war in Yemen continues unabated. New International Rescue Committee research highlights the devastating impact of continued conflict on ordinary Yemenis. The international community must  push the warring parties to build on a rare window of opportunity for peace to secure a nationwide ceasefire.

  • At the current rate of decline, it will take 20 years to return Yemen to pre-crisis levels of child hunger.
  • If the war continues for another five years it will cost the international community as much as $29 billion in humanitarian funding - more than the entire annual humanitarian budget globally.
  • The IRC is calling on members of the UN Security Council to use their significant diplomatic influence to build on recent political developments and kick-start UN-led negotiations.
  • The IRC reaches more than 21,000 people each week with healthcare and nutrition services, women’s protection and empowerment programs and education for children.

The IRC released a new report today detailing the devastating consequences a continuation of the war will have for the people of Yemen. The War Destroyed Our Dreams shows that at the current rate of decline, it will take 20 years for the country to return to pre-war levels of child malnutrition, which were already amongst the worst in the world. Another five years of fighting will cost the international community as much as $29 billion USD just to sustain the current level of humanitarian aid. 

Recent developments in Yemen suggest a rare window of opportunity has opened to push for peace. The recent power sharing agreement between the Internationally Recognized Government (IRG) and the Southern Transitional Council (STC) offers hope for more inclusive peace talks. However, this is far from assured. World leaders must invest in diplomacy and put their full focus on bringing together warring parties for negotiations. A nationwide ceasefire is needed immediately to avoid further catastrophe.

David Miliband, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee, said,

“Today’s grim predictions are an insight into the collosal cost of the Age of Impunity: where wars are fought with a complete disregard for civilian life and neglected by diplomats charged with ending the violence and holding perpetrators of international law to account. What’s more, the war in Yemen has been prolonged by active military support and diplomatic cover from the US, UK, and other Western powers. 

"The good news is that the huge efforts by humanitarian agencies, donor governments, and aid workers, have helped reduce slightly the appalling levels of child malnutrition in Yemen. The bad news is that at this rate, it will take a further 20 years just to reach pre-war levels of child hunger. That’s twice the agreed timetable for ending malnutrition around the world.

"For almost half a decade the international community has held Yemen’s evermore vulnerable population back from the brink of catastrophe with humanitarian assistance. Yet, humanitarian aid alone cannot address this malaise. International backers of the warring parties must use all diplomatic tools to build on recent developments and kick-start UN-led negotiations. The cost of inaction is too shocking to countenance. Humanitarian needs will continue to grow exponentially, trapping Yemeni civilians in a cycle of aid dependence. To spend another $29 billion USD,  just to provide some Yemenis with the bare necessities to survive is a horrifying thought.”

With 24 million Yemenis, 80 percent of the population, in need of humanitarian aid and 16 million living on the verge of famine, Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis and home to the largest food insecure population on the planet. Analysis suggests that if the conflict persists, famine conditions are likely to return and children will bear the brunt: the long-term physical and mental development impacts of malnutrition are well understood. Without peace now millions of children face a harsh future. 

Almost one year from the Stockholm agreement, both sides have not fully implemented the terms, yet, a path to peace is opening up. Now is the time to seize this opportunity and end the war. 

The IRC has been working in Yemen since 2012 and rapidly scaled our programming in 2015 to address greater humanitarian need caused by the conflict. While the ongoing conflict and restrictions 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.

About the IRC

The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 26 offices across the U.S. helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future, and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.