Assessment team warns of humanitarian crisis


December 18, 2011

Today, Mercy Corps joined the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) and other major international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) to increase funding for response to the worsening humanitarian crisis in Yemen. The groups spoke out at a photography exhibit entitled “Facing Crisis: Yemen’s Deepening Humanitarian Challenges” held at the Dubai Humanitarian City in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

“There is an urgent humanitarian situation happening in Yemen right now that is being overshadowed by news of politics and conflict.” said Sarah Warren, Mercy Corps’ Director of Gulf Partnerships. “Yemen is one of the poorest countries in the Middle East and the prolonged conflict has left many people in desperate need. As many as 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes due to fighting between security forces and insurgents in the south. Hunger and malnutrition – especially among children – are at alarming levels. Over half a million boys and girls under five are affected by acute malnutrition in Yemen.”

After almost a year of political and civil unrest, the people of Yemen are extremely vulnerable. A Mercy Corps emergency response team conducted assessments on the ground and witnessed the critical state of the population created by the ongoing crisis. Thousands fled their homes and took refuge with host families or in buildings such as schools and other public institutions. This has resulted in interrupted school years for children, especially in the southern city of Aden, who are unable to attend school.

Families who have remained in their homes face significant challenges due to the massive unrest, including loss of livelihood, power outages, fuel shortages and a food crisis. Weak economic growth, a growing trade deficit, and unstable national currency exposed the population to rising global good and fuel prices. The cost of primary food commodities has increased by 46% and this has a tremendously negative effect on the approximately 42% of the 24 million population that lives under $2/day.

In southern Yemen, the area hit hardest by the violence, water and sanitation systems have been disrupted. Water treatment is non-existent, and as a result, most of the public and private water supplies are now contaminated. Inefficient waste disposal at overcrowded hospitals pose public health and safety risks.

“The humanitarian situation in Yemen is grim and steadily declining,” says Mohammed Qazilbash, Mercy Corps’ Yemen Country Representative who led assessments this month. “Without increased funding from the international community, we will not be able to meet critical needs on the ground.”

Mercy Corps is part of a country-wide coalition working to address humanitarian needs on the ground. The Yemen Humanitarian Country team hosted today’s event and is composed of United Nations Agencies and INGOs that are hoping to raise visibility and $447 million in funds to assist four million target beneficiaries affected by Yemen’s humanitarian disaster. This is only 44% of the total population in need, whose numbers are expected to significantly increase in 2012. This funding request is 95% over 2011’s original requirement, demonstrating the rapidly growing humanitarian need created by the political crisis.

Today’s event featured a photo exhibition showcasing the human dimension of the crisis in Yemen. In attendance were several officials and heads of agencies from Yemen who will work alongside the Yemen Humanitarian Country Team in further assessing the country’s conditions and addressing growing needs.