Yemen Seven Years On: Left Behind

March 26 will mark seven years of the conflict in Yemen – and seven years of suffering for families and communities whose lives have been shattered by it. Against the backdrop of a renewed military offensive in Marib and a spiraling fuel crisis in the country, daily living conditions for Yemenis have dramatically worsened. January marked an uptick in violence levels, with the highest number of civilian casualties recorded since 2018. Shortages in fuel are disrupting every corner of the economy by increasing the cost of transportation, contributing to currency exchange rate fluctuations, and driving up the price of goods. Program delivery is more challenging for humanitarian agencies due to the onslaught of bureaucratic regulations, internal politics, and attacks on humanitarian workers throughout the country.

According to the United Nations, nearly 23 million Yemenis – almost 75% of the population – require humanitarian assistance. This includes 19 million people acutely in need of food assistance, 15.4 million without access to safe water and sanitation, and two million children facing acute malnutrition. 

Jimmy Tuhaise, Mercy Corps Country Director in Yemen, says:

“The international community must recognize Yemen as a country mired in protracted conflict – not a country in the first year of a humanitarian emergency. First and foremost,  we need an aggressive diplomatic push for an end to fighting and  the  widespread suffering it has caused. Efforts must be made to offer relief from the economic crisis and to help communities support themselves. Humanitarian assistance cannot be the only solution offered.”

As Mercy Corps recently reported in “Sharing to Survive,” a recent study based on fieldwork in Taiz,  Yemenis have become more dependent on formal assistance because they no longer have the capacity to share resources informally. Aid is crucial to help sustain these families’ livelihoods, especially in difficult-to-reach areas. 

During a recent visit to one of Mercy Corps’ program sites in a remote Taiz village, families asked for more cash assistance. One program participant said, “Fuel is so expensive these days that we are chopping wood instead. We need direct cash assistance in order to buy basic goods like flour, rice, sugar, and oil. Will you be renewing our program?” 

The answer depends on the international community. 

Needs are growing, but Yemen continues to battle donor fatigue, among other challenges. While we applaud the Biden Administration’s announcement that it would more than triple its assistance in 2022 from $191 million to $584 million, we are deeply concerned that donors provided less than a third of requested funding at this year’s pledging conference, marking a 13% decrease from last year’s pledged commitments. 

In addition to funding shortages, we remain deeply concerned by reports that the United Kingdom is considering a designation of Ansar Allah as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO). This would disrupt the flow of critical assistance from humanitarian agencies and imports from private businesses that provide a majority of the country’s basic goods like food and medicine. As a group of 20 NGOs, including Mercy Corps, warned the Biden Administration earlier last month, this designation would have catastrophic consequences.

With the world’s attention focused on more recent crises unfolding around the world, we urge the international community not to turn its back on Yemen. The people of Yemen have been extraordinarily tenacious – but their self-sufficiency has limits and cannot compensate for inaction by the international community.

Mercy Corps has been providing development and life-saving assistance in Yemen since 2010. Our team members throughout the country are supporting Yemeni families with food assistance, livelihood assistance, and clean water and hygiene support. In 2021, Mercy Corps reached more than 830,000 people in Yemen.