As civilians continue to suffer from years of war, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) implores donors at the UN pledging conference on Yemen to focus attention on the country’s humanitarian needs and increase pledge commitments. Year-on-year underfunding of the humanitarian response has already caused lifesaving programs to be cut. Yemen is one of the world’s largest and most complex humanitarian crises in the world, where civilian harm has been driven by years of conflict, destruction of infrastructure, and a collapsed economy. As the Ukraine crisis threatens to exacerbate food insecurity in the country, donors must not forget Yemen. 

Despite cuts to funding and lack of global attention, humanitarian needs in Yemen continue to soar. Civilian casualties from airstrikes reached a high of 426 in January 2022, the most violent month in Yemen in 5 years. Diplomatic stagnation and the dissolution of the Group of Eminent Experts (GEE) have precluded any modicum of accountability in this war. On top of this, more than 20 million people require humanitarian assistance due to the conflict and economic collapse. Rising inflation and economic warfare compounds their vulnerabilities, with many unable to afford the food they need to survive. 

These ongoing needs risk deepening as a result of the war in Ukraine, from which Yemen imports 22% of its wheat consumption. Although Yemen’s dependency on food from abroad is not new, the disruption of key imports coupled with catastrophic reductions in humanitarian funding risk driving food prices even higher and further out of reach for most Yemeni families. 

Tamuna Sabadze, IRC’s Yemen Country Director said, 

“Years of war, diplomatic failures, and economic shocks have devastated the lives of millions of people in Yemen. Yemenis cannot afford to see further cuts to lifesaving services such as food distribution, safe drinking water, educational programs, and healthcare services due to a lack of funding. The crisis in Ukraine threatens to worsen an already-dire food security and humanitarian emergency in Yemen. 

“The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) was only 61% funded. As a result of chronic underfunding and low support from the international community, the UN World Food Programme has warned that 8 million people have already begun receiving reduced food rations.

“Donors must respond to the humanitarian crisis in Yemen by committing to fully fund the HRP when they convene on March 16th. A well-funded humanitarian response will enable frontline actors like the IRC to continue delivering aid and services to those in need and prevent further cuts to services. As the world’s attention is grabbed by crises first in Afghanistan and now in Ukraine, donors must not forget Yemen.”

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 creates challenges for our operations, the IRC has maintained access to affected populations and continues to provide life-saving services, including treatment for malnutrition, healthcare, water and sanitation, cash assistance as well as case management services and education programming.