Seven years since the escalation of conflict in Yemen, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that civilians are still bearing the brunt of war. Since 2015, over 19,000 civilians have been killed or injured from just airstrikes, including 139 civilian fatalities and 187 civilians injured in January 2022 alone, the most casualties seen in one month since the start of the war.
The economic impacts of the war and year-on-year underfunding of the Yemen humanitarian response plan have led to widespread need and have left 17 million people facing acute food insecurity. Over 20 million people are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance.
The IRC calls for world leaders and donors to increase their pledges to the humanitarian response, which is currently less than 30% funded, and to redouble efforts to secure a political settlement to the war, in order to avert further civilian suffering.
Tamuna Sabadze, IRC Yemen’s Country Director said, “As international attention shifts to other conflicts, the world cannot forget about Yemen. The Yemeni people are still experiencing a bitter conflict, characterized by violations of international humanitarian law. According to the Yemen Data Project, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes caused more civilian harm in the first month of 2022 than in the two previous years combined. Attacks on Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates also continue to cause harm to civilians. The suffering has continued for too long. Those with influence over the warring parties must work to deliver a diplomatic resolution to this crisis that has caused suffering for millions of innocent Yemenis”.
In recent years, severe economic shocks including a historic currency devaluation contributing to rising prices have left millions of Yemenis unable to afford basic items to survive, including food. One-fifth of Yemen’s wheat imports come from Ukraine and Russia, and the war there has already resulted in rising food prices in Yemen. Tragically, the food crisis could get much worse if humanitarian aid cannot reach those in need.
At the same time, civilians continue to suffer the direct impacts of the war with the number of civilian casualties rising again. Since the Group of Eminent Experts was disbanded IRC has seen a 43% rise in the number of bombardments by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Ansar Allah attacks of the UAE. These trends clearly illustrate that international frameworks designed to hold warring parties to account are failing.
Violence has also severely damaged civilian infrastructure. Despite protection under international humanitarian law, over 25,000 schools have been damaged or destroyed and the number of out-of-school children has more than doubled since the start of the war – from 900,000 to over 2 million. The economic crisis means two-thirds of teachers have not been paid in over four years and 10,000 children have been killed or injured since the start of the war. Only 50% of hospitals in Yemen are fully functional, with ever-increasing health issues prevalent in the general population.
As Yemen enters its eighth year of conflict, international attention must prioritize the safety and protection of civilians. A nationwide ceasefire is urgently required and is the only way to end the humanitarian catastrophe. A commitment to diplomacy, accountability, civilian protection, and access for humanitarian organizations like the International Rescue Committee to address needs at scale is urgently needed. Protection of civilians must be at the heart of focused and meaningful diplomacy and peace talks. The substantial increase in pledges from the US and European Commission are welcome but more donors need to stand in solidarity with the Yemeni people who are bearing the brunt of this war.
The IRC has been working in Yemen since 2012 and rapidly scaled the programming in 2015 to address greater humanitarian needs caused by the conflict. While the ongoing conflict creates challenges for the 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 educational programming.